By American Immigration Council Staff | February 9, 2024
Black immigrants not only contribute to America’s rich political and cultural history—think rapper Wyclef Jean, U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, or basketball’s Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon, to name but a very few—they also play an important and growing role in our economy, making outsize contributions in industries facing critical worker shortages, such as healthcare and transportation.
Fast Growth of the Black Immigrant Population
In one decade, the Black immigrant population increased by a notable 23.5%, from 3.5 million in 2012 to 4.3 million in 2022. While Black immigrants comprise just 1.3% of the total U.S. population, they concentrate in several large states with sizable immigrant populations. Black immigrants are defined as any person who was born outside the United States to non-U.S. citizen parents and who identifies as Black or African American in the American Community Survey.
The Black immigrant population has grown particularly rapidly in Texas, which nearly doubled from 172,000 Black immigrants in 2012 to 309,900 in 2022. However, Black immigrants in the state still comprise a small fraction of the populace—or 1.0% in 2022.
Of the country’s 4.3 million Black immigrants, 2.5 million—or 58.6%—are eligible voters. More than 20.3% of these eligible voters live in New York and 17.1% live in Florida, giving them more electoral power in state or local elections. Most of America’s Black immigrants have moved here from the Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa, with the greatest numbers hailing from Jamaica and Haiti.
Employment, Taxes, and Spending Power
In total, more than 2.8 million Black immigrants were in America’s workforce in 2022, supporting several fast-growing industries such as healthcare and transportation.
As American healthcare faces a rising shortage of workers across the industry, Black immigrants are helping to fill the gaps. More than one-quarter of working Black immigrants (26.9%) are employed in the healthcare and social assistance industry. Among healthcare occupations, 138,900 Black immigrants work as registered nurses, 94,300 as personal care aides, and 24,400 as physicians. Despite comprising just 1.3% of the U.S. population, Black immigrants make up 3.3% of the healthcare and social assistance workforce.
Black immigrants also punch well above their weight in transportation and warehousing, where they make up 3.6% of the workforce. More than 101,900 Black immigrants work as truck drivers, another occupation that continues to experience fast growth. Black immigrants also comprise 2.0% of the military workforce.
While helping to fill critical job shortages, Black immigrant workers are also contributing to the public coffers and supporting local businesses through housing, food, lifestyle, and other expenditures. In 2022, Black immigrants in the United States earned $176.7 million and paid $28.7 million in federal taxes and $17.0 million in state and local taxes, leaving them with $130.9 million in spending power.
As we honor the struggles and triumphs of all Black Americans throughout history, let us not forget the increasingly vital role played by Black immigrants. With an aging population and rising labor shortages in critical fields, the United States benefits from the outsized contributions these immigrants make.