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Three New MPI Reports Chart Black Immigrants’ Flows from Africa and the Caribbean, Demographics and Well-Being in the United States

Press Release
Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Three New MPI Reports Chart Black Immigrants’ Flows from Africa and the Caribbean, Demographics and Well-Being in the United States

WASHINGTON — Black immigrants from Africa represented the fastest-growing segment of the foreign-born population in the United States between 2000 and 2010. Overall, the Black immigrant population has more than doubled over the past 20 years, with 1.7 million immigrants from the Caribbean and about 1.1 million from Africa living in the United States.

A trio of reports released today by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) examines the demographics of Black immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa, focusing in particular on the young children of those immigrant families. Today, about 813,000 children under the age of 10 have parents who are Black immigrants from the Caribbean or Africa—accounting for nearly 12 percent of all young Black children in the United States.

“This is a rapidly growing, understudied, strikingly diverse population. These flows range from highly educated, English-speaking entrants to newcomers who arrive with few years of schooling and limited English skills and whose children face great integration challenges,” said MPI Senior Vice President Michael Fix.

Fix is leading a research initiative by MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy that aims to address gaps in knowledge about the well-being and development of young children (birth to age 10) in Black immigrant families. The initiative, which will offer perspectives on infant and child health, parenting practices, school readiness and early school success, is supported through a grant from the Foundation for Child Development.

In Changing Demography and Circumstances for Young Black Children in African and Caribbean Immigrant Families, sociologist Donald J. Hernandez of Hunter College and the City University of New York finds that the children of Black immigrants generally fall in the middle of multiple well-being indicators, faring less well than Asian and White children but better than the children of native-born Blacks and Hispanic children.

The Hernandez report finds that children of Black immigrants:

  • Are less likely than their Hispanic peers to have parents who are unauthorized and more likely to have parents who are U.S. citizens, facilitating access to public benefits and services and, in some cases, their pace of integration.
  • Typically have at least one parent who speaks English fluently, in contrast to the children of Hispanic immigrants. Their parents also have higher college graduation rates than Black children with native-born parents or Hispanic children regardless of parental birthplace. Despite relatively high parental educational attainment, English proficiency and employment, children in Black immigrant families are twice as likely to live in poverty as White or Asian children, though they are less likely to live in poverty than native-born Black and Hispanic children.
  • Have the second-highest rate of pre-kindergarten enrollment of any major nativity/race-ethnicity group, after the children of Asian natives.

A second MPI report, Diverse Streams: African Migration to the United States, examines the rapidly growing Black African immigrant population—which grew by about 200 percent during the 1980s and 1990s and by 100 percent during the 2000s. The report, by MPI’s Randy Capps, Kristen McCabe and Michael Fix, finds African immigrants generally fare well on integration indicators, with college completion rates that greatly exceed those for most other immigrant groups and U.S. natives. Despite higher levels of human capital, high employment rates and strong English skills, African immigrants’ earnings lag those of the native born though they are on par with those of other immigrants. Recency of arrival, difficulty in gaining recognition for home-country academic and professional credentials and labor market discrimination may explain the underemployment of highly skilled African immigrants, the report finds.

The third report, A Demographic Profile of Black Caribbean Immigrants in the United States, examines the relatively recent history of migration from the Caribbean, which began largely after changes to U.S. immigration law in 1965. The report, by sociologist Kevin J.A. Thomas of Pennsylvania State University, finds that despite relatively low educational attainment, English-speaking Black Caribbean immigrants earn more than Black African immigrants. This earnings gap may be explained in part by the fact that Caribbean immigrants tend to have been in the United States for longer.

For more on the Young Children in Black Immigrant Families research initiative or to download the reports, visit: www.migrationpolicy.org/cbi.

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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. For more on MPI, please visit www.migrationpolicy.org.

The National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy is a crossroads for elected officials, researchers, state and local agency managers, grassroots leaders and activists, local service providers and others who seek to understand and respond to the challenges and opportunities today’s high rates of immigration create in local communities. For more on the Center’s work, visit www.migrationpolicy.org/integration.