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New Report Offers Close-Up Look at Five Groups

America Counts Staff

The U.S. populations of Sub-Saharan African and Caribbean ancestry are still relatively small, yet rapidly growing.

For example, the population reporting Ethiopian ancestry more than doubled from 87,000 in 2000 to an estimated 195,000 in the 2008-2012 American Community Survey (ACS). During that same period, the number claiming Jamaican ancestry increased from 737,000 people to about 1 million.

For the first time, the demographic profile of those who reported ancestry as Ethiopian, Nigerian, Haitian, Jamaican, and Trinidadian and Tobagonian is explored through a new U.S. Census Bureau report, Characteristics of Selected Sub-Saharan African and Caribbean Ancestry Groups in the United States: 2008-2012.

According to this report, at least 150,000 people claimed ancestry in each of the groups, totaling about 2.5 million — a 469 percent jump from the fewer than half a million in 1980. Despite this surge, all of these groups combined make up only 0.8 percent of the total U.S. population.

The Census Bureau defines ancestry as the ethnic origin, descent, roots, heritage or place of birth of the person or of the person’s ancestors.

Not all of this population was foreign-born. About 60 percent of those reporting Nigerian, Haitian, Jamaican, and Trinidadian and Tobagonian ancestry were born outside of the United States. The share of foreign-born Ethiopians was the highest, at 72.3 percent.

The report finds that labor force participation was 71 percent or higher for these groups, higher than for the U.S population as a whole (64.7 percent). The Nigerians — the most educated group — had the largest share of management, business, science and arts occupations at 52 percent, compared to 36 percent for the nation.

“Since acquiring a college or other advanced degree was a major factor for many people of Nigerian ancestry coming to the United States, it is not surprising that twice as many had a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to all people and the other selected ancestry groups,” said Stella Ogunwole, a demographer in the Population Division.

Characteristics of Selected Sub-Saharan African and Caribbean Ancestry Groups


Among the highlights:

  • The two Sub-Saharan African ancestry groups (Nigerians and Ethiopians) and Haitians each had a median age of about 30 years, younger than the other two Caribbean groups (Jamaicans at 34.5 years, and Trinidadian and Tobagonians at 35.8 years).
  • Those of Haitian, Jamaican, and Trinidadian and Tobagonian ancestries were most concentrated in Florida and New York. The Ethiopian and Nigerian ancestry groups are more widely dispersed across the United States.
  • Even though English is the official language of Nigeria, less than half of those reporting Nigerian ancestry spoke only English at home. Almost all Trinidadian and Tobagonians (95.5 percent) and Jamaicans (92.7 percent) spoke only English at home.

A CLOSE LOOK AT EACH OF THE FIVE GROUPS FEATURED:

Nigerians

Nigerian migration to the United States began in the 1920s, starting with a handful who came to attend American universities and eventually returned home. In later decades, most continued to return home but that pattern changed starting in the late 1960s due to political conditions. Many chose to stay, forming the first wave of Nigerian immigration.

There were 263,000 people of Nigerian ancestry in the United States, according to the 2008-2012 ACS. That’s a 449 percent increase since 1980.

Highlights:

  • Texas had the largest percentage of the Nigerian ancestry population at 17 percent.
  • There were more men than women, a reflection of a culture that provided more resources to the male child, including an education at home or abroad.
  • Women of Nigerian ancestry were less likely to be divorced than women in the other selected Sub-Saharan and Caribbean ancestry groups. Almost half of all Nigerian-ancestry households were married-couple households — similar to the U.S. rate as a whole.
  • About 43 percent speak only English at home.
  • More than 60 percent of those 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher, more than double the rate of the U.S. population as a whole (28.5 percent).
  • More than three-fourths participate in the labor force — with more than half of those in the labor force working in management, business, science and arts occupations.
  • Nigerians had higher median earnings ($50,922 for men, $44.894 for women) than the U.S. population as a whole ($48,629 for men, $37,842 for women). Their poverty rate of 12.8 percent is lower than the national rate of 14.9 percent.
  • Almost half own their homes, lower than the national share of 65.5 percent.


Jamaicans

The first wave of Jamaican immigration to the United States began in the early part of the 20th century. The United States allowed unlimited immigration from the Western Hemisphere at that time. The 1965 Immigration Act produced another large wave of immigrants.

There were about a million people of Jamaican ancestry in the 2008-2012 ACS, a 294 percent increase since 1980.

Highlights:

  • Jamaicans are the largest of the five selected Sub-Saharan and Caribbean groups.
  • The largest concentrations are in Florida (26 percent) and New York (31 percent). They are also concentrated in smaller numbers in Virginia, North Carolina, Texas and California.
  • Among metro areas, the largest cluster is in the New York metro area (330,944).
  • Their median age is 34.5, older than their Sub-Saharan counterparts but still younger than the national median age of 37.2.
  • The average household size is 2.8, higher than the U.S. average of 2.6.
  • About 60 percent are foreign-born and 61 percent of the foreign-born are naturalized citizens, as shown in the report.
  • About 93 percent speak only English at home.
  • Almost 25 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Their rate of labor force participation (72.6 percent) is higher than the national rate (64.7 percent).
  • The largest share (32.9 percent) work in management, business, science and the arts.
  • Men of Jamaican ancestry have median earnings of $41,969, lower than the U.S. median of $48,629 for men. Women’s median earnings of $39,155 is higher than the U.S. median of $37,442 for women.
  • Their poverty rate is similar to the national rate, about 15 percent.
  • Almost 54 percent own their homes, below the national rate of 65.5 percent.


Haitians

Although there have been successive waves of migration by people from Haitian ancestry to the United States during a series of political conditions (1791-1804 and 1915-1934), the majority arrived beginning around 1957. An additional wave came around 1964. The 1965 Immigration Act allowed migrating Haitians to bring close relatives in the late 1960s and 1970s. The migration flows continued through the early 1980s.

Haitian-ancestry population grew to 868,000 — more than 800 percent from 1980 to 2008-2012.

Highlights:

  • Haitians are the most geographically concentrated of the five selected sub-Saharan and Caribbean groups. Almost half are in Florida and almost a quarter in New York. About 290,000 live in the Miami metro area and about 226,000 live in the New York metro area.
  • Their median age is 30, compared to the median age of 37 for the nation.
  • The percentage of women never married was 44, much higher than the national rate of 29 percent.
  • Their average household size was the largest of the selected groups at 3.5.
  • Almost half of the foreign-born of Haitian ancestry are naturalized U.S. citizens.
  • Their educational attainment is lower than the other selected groups. Only 19.2 percent had a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Less than 20 percent speak only English at home.
  • About 71 percent are in the labor force, and the largest occupation group (37.9 percent) is the service industry.
  • Median earnings is $33,254 for men and $30,841 for women.
  • Haitians have the highest poverty rate among the selected groups at 21.3 percent, higher than the national rate of 14.9 percent.
  • Home ownership among Haitians is 45 percent, also lower than the national rate of 65.5 percent.


Ethiopians

The political conditions in Ethiopia in 1974 made it difficult for many of the Ethiopian students, business leaders, government officials and other visitors who were in the United States to return to their country. They became the first wave of Ethiopian immigrants.

The next wave came starting in the 1980s under additional political and economic change.

The population of Ethiopian ancestry was the smallest of the selected sub-Saharan and Caribbean ancestry groups in 1980, but it was also the fastest growing from 1980 to 2008-2012.  The population jumped 2,400 percent, from 8,000 to 195,000, during that period.

Ethiopian populations are dispersed, with relatively high numbers living in the Midwestern states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Missouri. California had the largest percentage at 13 percent. Among metropolitan statistical areas, the Washington, D.C., metro area had the largest number at 37,924.

Highlights:

  • Almost half (45.7 percent) of people with Ethiopian ancestry were ages 20 to 44 compared with a third of the U.S. population.
  • The percentage of women who were married was 45 percent.
  • Almost three-quarters are foreign-born and almost half of the foreign-born are naturalized U.S. citizens.
  • About 20 percent speak only English at home.
  • The percentage of people with Ethiopian ancestry with a bachelor’s degree or higher was 27 percent, below the national level of 28.5 percent.
  • They have a 75.9 percent labor force participation compared to 64.7 percent nationwide.
  • Median earnings for both men and women ($34,018 and $30,253, respectively) are lower than national median earnings.
  • Their poverty rate (19.7 percent) is higher than the U.S. rate (14.9 percent).
  • Only 35.2 percent own their homes, lower than the national rate of 65.5 percent.


Trinidadians and Tobagonians

Those who came from Trinidad and Tobago to the United States followed the same pattern as their Jamaican counterparts, arriving first at the beginning of the last century.

Also, much like those of Jamaican ancestry most settled in Florida (15 percent) and New York (46 percent).

There were 196,000 people of Trinidadian and Tobagonian ancestry in 2008-2012, up 348 percent since 1980.

Highlights:

  • The metro area with the largest population of Trinidadians and Tobagonians was the New York metro area (97,270).
  • There are more women than men. Especially during the last big wave of immigration, it was easier for nurses or domestic workers to qualify for labor certification — two occupations dominated by women.
  • Their median age of 35.8 is the highest among the selected groups, but still lower than the national median age of 37.2.
  • Their average household size is 2.6, as is the average household size for the nation as a whole.
  • More than 63 percent are foreign-born, and 56.3 percent of the foreign-born are naturalized U.S. citizens.
  • They have the highest rate among the selected groups of speaking only English at home (95.5 percent).
  • Only about a quarter have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Almost three-fourths (72 percent) are in the labor force, and about a third are in management, business, science and the arts.
  • The median earnings for women ($40,552) is higher than the national median income for women, $37,842. The median income is $43,748 for men, lower than the national median of $48,629 for men.
  • The poverty rate is 14.3 percent.
  • Almost half (47.8 percent) own their homes.


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