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Black Immigrants Have Quadrupled Since 1980, Study Says

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The number of black immigrants in the United States has more than quadrupled since 1980, a new study has found, and that group is expected to make up an increasing share of the nation’s black population in the decades ahead.

The study, released Thursday by the Pew Research Center, found that 3.8 million black immigrants lived in the United States in 2013, and their share of the black population in the country “is projected to rise from 9 percent today to 16 percent by 2060,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, the director of Hispanic research at Pew and an author of the study along with Monica Anderson.

That differs from the Hispanic population, Mr. Lopez said, because the share of Hispanics in America who are immigrants is declining.


Part of the reasons for the growth has been a number of federal laws over the years that have eased restrictions on immigrants, particularly for nations that had been underrepresented.

Half of the United States’ black immigrants are from Caribbean nations like Jamaica and Haiti, and 9 percent are from South and Central American countries like Mexico. But the primary driver of the growth from 2000 to 2013 was the 137 percent increase in African immigrants, who now number 1.4 million.

About 30 percent of the sub-Saharan immigrants who arrived during that period came as refugees or were seeking asylum, fleeing the violence and fighting in that region of the continent.

More than 80 percent of the nation’s black immigrants live in the Northeast or the South. The New York-New Jersey-Newark metropolitan area is home to 27 percent of the nation’s black immigrants, and the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metropolitan area has 12 percent.

“Africa has a relatively young population, and many worldwide migration projections project that Africans will play a wider role in worldwide migration going forward,” Mr. Lopez said. “We are starting to see some of the beginnings of that.”

Black immigrants have become increasingly prominent in American culture; in recent years, novels like “Americanah,” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and “Open City,” by Teju Cole, featured immigrants from Africa as protagonists. The Pew study found that black immigrants over 25 are more likely than their American-born counterparts to have a bachelor’s degree and that all black immigrants are less likely to live in poverty.

Christina Greer, a political scientist at Fordham University and the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” said that might be because many immigrants who leave their home country can afford to do so, and there are often prior social networks to ease their transition.

Black immigrants, Ms. Greer said, often identify strongly with their home countries even as they are settling here, instead of assimilating quickly as many other immigrant groups have done.

“We’re not seeing that same desire among black immigrants to just become black Americans,” Ms. Greer said, “because there are certain assumptions and stereotypes about becoming black Americans in this country, and so many black immigrants just prefer to maintain their ethnic identity in ways that we haven’t seen white immigrants in the past.”

Read more at the New York Times

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