One-in-Ten Black People Living in the U.S. Are Immigrants says study

One-in-Ten Black People Living in the U.S. Are Immigrants says study

The Black population of the United States is diverse, growing and changing. The foreign-born segment of this population has played an important role in this growth over the past four decades and is projected to continue doing so in future years.

Roughly 4.6 million, or one-in-ten, Black people in the U.S. were born in a different country as of 2019, up from 3% in 1980. By 2060, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that this number will increase to 9.5 million, or more than double the current level (the Census Bureau only offers projections for single race groups).

Between 1980 and 2019, the nation’s Black population as a whole grew by 20 million, with the Black foreign-born population accounting for 19% of this growth.

In future years, the Black immigrant population will account for roughly a third of the U.S. Black population’s growth through 2060, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

The Black immigrant population is also projected to outpace the U.S.-born Black population in growth. While both groups are increasing in number, the foreign-born population is projected to grow by 90% between 2020 and 2060, while the U.S.-born population is expected to grow 29% over the same time span.

Migration from Africa has fueled the bulk of the growth of the Black foreign-born population from 2000 onward. In 2000, roughly 560,000 African-born Black immigrants lived in the U.S. By 2019, that number had more than tripled to over 1.9 million.

And many of these immigrants are newer arrivals to America: 43% of African-born Black immigrants immigrated to the U.S. from 2010 to 2019, higher than the shares among all U.S. immigrants (25%) and Black immigrants from the Caribbean (21%), Central America (18%) and South America (24%) in the same time period.

At the same time, a notable share of Black Americans today are the offspring of immigrants. Roughly 9% of Black people are second-generation Americans – meaning they were born in the U.S., but have at least one foreign-born parent, according to a Center analysis of the March supplement of the Census Bureau’s 2019 Current Population Survey. In total, Black immigrants and their U.S.-born children account for 21% of the overall Black population. 

When it comes to socioeconomic factors, Black immigrants stand out from the U.S.-born Black population and the overall U.S. immigrant population on some measures, such as household income and educational attainment.

For example, a larger share of Black immigrants ages 25 and older have a college degree or higher than does the U.S.-born Black population (31% vs. 22%). However, Black immigrants are about as likely as all U.S. immigrants in the same age group to have a college degree or higher (31% and 33%, respectively).

Households headed by Black immigrants also had a higher median household income in 2019 than those headed by Black Americans born in the U.S. ($57,200 vs. $42,000), but the median household income was higher among all U.S. immigrant-headed households than it was among Black immigrant-headed households ($63,000 vs. $57,200).

Additionally, there are key differences among Black immigrants born in different regions of the world on measures such as marital status, citizenship, educational attainment and time living in the U.S. For example, over half of Black immigrants born in the Caribbean (56%), Central America or Mexico (59%) and South America (54%) have been in the U.S. 20 years or longer, while just a quarter of Black African immigrants have been in the country for the same time span.

When it comes to religious identity, majorities of both the Black foreign-born and U.S.-born adult populations identify as Protestant, but religious identity and beliefs – such as whether people of faith have a duty to convert nonbelievers – differ among Caribbean- and African-born Black adults.

This report explores the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the nation’s Black immigrant population. It also explores the origins of Black immigrants and the history of Black immigration to the U.S., as well as the religious composition of this population.

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