Black Immigrants in the United States Face Hurdles, but Outcomes Vary by City

Valerie Lacarte
Date of Publication: 
February, 2022
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

This article analyzes Black immigrants’ socioeconomic outcomes in the U.S., with emphasis on low-income immigrants in the five largest metro areas of residence—New York, Miami, Washington, DC, Atlanta, and Boston—comparing their experiences to those of native-born Blacks. Using data from the American Community Survey and the Survey of Income and Program Participation, the study finds that while Black immigrants are less likely to live in poverty than U.S.-born Black residents and typically have lower unemployment rates, due to factors including higher labor force participation and levels of education, systemic barriers persist for Black communities regardless of immigrant status. Federal restrictions on public benefits and limitations on work authorization also mean that low-income Black noncitizens face unique challenges despite their higher labor force participation rates. Immigrants’ outcomes can also vary significantly depending on the metro area where they reside, local economic conditions, and the policies of local and state government affecting access to safety net resources for immigrants with different statuses. Differences in immigration status can also impact the type of job immigrants hold and the industries they work in, making it more difficult to find and keep high-quality and stable jobs. Outcomes also vary among immigrant groups: Caribbean immigrants (from Haiti and Jamaica), have larger and more established networks and are more likely to be naturalized and English proficient; Africans, one of the fastest growing immigrant groups in the U.S., are more likely to come as refugees or through the Diversity Visa lottery. Black immigrants are more likely to be working poor, are less likely to have health insurance, and Black immigrant children are more likely to be low income than their U.S.-born counterparts. Cities, the article concludes, could shift these outcomes with more immigrant-inclusive policies, offering newcomers more opportunities to earn a living while narrowing the gaps in outcomes with native residents, especially among low-income communities. Cities in states with more inclusive policies, such as Massachusetts and New York, tend to have lower gaps between U.S.-born and immigrant black residents. (Jeffrey Gross, Ph.D.)

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Lacarte, L. (2022, February). Black Immigrants in the United States Face Hurdles, but Outcomes Vary by City. Migration Policy Institute.