By Manny Otiko
Most people tend to think of African Americans as a monolithic group. But there are many different ethnic groups that make up Black America, such as native-born Blacks, who are descended from enslaved Africans, Blacks hailing from the Caribbean, Latin Americans and African immigrants. According to a Pew Research Survey of U.S. Census Bureau data, those numbers are rising. Currently Black immigrants make up 8.7 percent of the nation’s Black population, triple the number from 1980. Those figures are expected to double by mid century.
“Rapid growth in the Black immigrant population is expected to continue. The Census Bureau projects that by 2060, 16.5 percent of U.S. Blacks will be immigrants,” said Pew writer Monica Anderson. She also pointed out many Black immigrants live in urban areas.
“In certain metropolitan areas, foreign-born Blacks make up a significant share of the overall Black population. For example, among the metropolitan areas with the largest Black populations, roughly a third of Blacks (34 percent) living in the Miami metro area are immigrants,” Anderson said. “In the New York metro area, that share is 28 percent. And in the Washington, D.C., area, it is 15 percent.”
Black immigrants from the Caribbean are well known for their cultural and political influence on the United States. Gen. Colin Powell, a former secretary of state; former Attorney General Eric Holder, Minister Louis Farrakhan and actor Harry Belafonte all come from Caribbean backgrounds. That influence is still felt today, according to the Pew Research Survey.
“Black immigrants are from many parts of the world, but half are from the Caribbean alone,” Anderson said. “Jamaica is the largest source country with about 682,000 Black immigrants born there, accounting for 18 percent of the national total. Haiti follows with 586,000 Black immigrants, making up 15 percent of the U.S. Black immigrant population.”
Immigration from African countries has also seen a huge jump in numbers, according to the survey.
“Between 2000 and 2013, the number of Black African immigrants living in the U.S. rose 137 percent, from 574,000 to 1.4 million,” Anderson said. “Africans now make up 36 percent of the total foreign-born Black population, up from 24 percent in 2000 and just 7 percent in 1980. Among Black immigrants from Africa, virtually all are from sub-Saharan African countries, with only 1 percent of all Black immigrants from North Africa. Nigeria, with 226,000 immigrants, and Ethiopia, with 191,000, are the two largest birth countries for Black African immigrants to the U.S.”
Contrary to public opinion, Africans had the highest degree attainment among immigrants even more than Asians, who are often seen as the “model minority.” This might explain why they are doing better financially than Black Americans.
“Black immigrants are doing better economically than Blacks born in the U.S. Household incomes for foreign-born Blacks are, on average, $10,000 higher than U.S.-born Blacks. And Black immigrants are less likely to live in poverty,” according to a Black Enterprise article by Stacey Tisdale.
The Pew Research Survey also indicated foreign born Blacks were older, more educated than Black Americans and more likely to be married.
“Immigrant Blacks ages 25 and older are also more likely than U.S.-born Blacks to have a bachelor’s degree or more (26 percent versus 19 percent), less likely to live in poverty (20 percent versus 28 percent) and on average, have higher household incomes,” Anderson said. “They’re also much more likely to be married (48 percent among those ages 18 and older versus 28 percent ) than U.S.-born Blacks, which is likely tied to their higher median age.”