The United States has long had a sizable black population because of the transatlantic slave trade beginning in the 16th century. But significant voluntary black migration is a relatively new development – and one that has increased rapidly over the past two decades. Here’s a closer look at the small, yet growing, black immigrant population in the U.S.:
1. The black immigrant population has increased fivefold since 1980.
There were 4.2 million black immigrants living in the U.S. in 2016, up from just 816,000 in 1980, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. Since 2000 alone, the number of black immigrants living in the country has risen 71%. Now, roughly one-in-ten blacks (9%) living in the U.S. are foreign born, according to 2016 American Community Survey data, up from 3% in 1980. (Immigrants make up 10% of the black population in the March 2016 Current Population Survey.)
2.Much of the recent growth in the foreign-born black population has been fueled by African migration.
Between 2000 and 2016, the black African immigrant population more than doubled, from 574,000 to 1.6 million. Africans now make up 39% of the overall foreign-born black population, up from 24% in 2000. Still, roughly half of all foreign-born blacks living in the U.S. in 2016 (49%) were from the Caribbean, with Jamaica and Haiti being the largest source countries.
3.When compared with other immigrant groups, blacks are more likely to be U.S. citizens or to be proficient English speakers.
Roughly six-in-ten foreign-born blacks (58%) are U.S. citizens, compared with 49% of immigrants overall. And given that many black immigrants are from English-speaking nations, black immigrants ages 5 and older are also more likely than the overall immigrant population to be proficient English speakers (74% vs. 51%).