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.
Among the highlights:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our email newsletter is sent out on the day we publish a story. Get an alert directly in your inbox to read, share and blog about our newest stories.
America Counts tells the stories behind the numbers in a new inviting way. We feature stories on various topics such as families, housing, employment, business, education, the economy, emergency management, health, population, income and poverty.
Contact our Public Information Office for media inquiries or interviews.