Feb 8, 2022 - News

Austin's Black immigrant population is growing

Reproduced from Pew Research

The Black population in the United States — and Texas — is diversifying because of global immigration, according to a report from the Pew Research Center.

The big picture: At the end of 2019, the Austin metro area was home to an estimated 20,000 of the state's 300,000 Black residents who were born in other countries.

  • While most of the expansion in Texas is happening outside of Austin, the metro area saw 100% growth in the number of Black immigrants living here from 2010 to 2019.

Zoom in: Austin demographer Lila Valencia told Axios that Austin's Black immigrant population has grown faster than the city as a whole in the last 10 years.

  • The group makes up a relatively small share of Austin's foreign born population, but the number has more than doubled in the last 10 years, with over one-third having arrived since 2010, according to Valencia.
  • It's tricky to break down the group by country of origin, but Valencia said the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey data reveals roughly 10% of Black immigrants have origins in the Caribbean, indicating a much larger percentage likely originated from African countries.

The impact: After decades of moving here for jobs, school, relationships or seeking safer, happier lives, immigrants have created strong communities and helped build networks to welcome others.

  • "If we don't have different, diverse backgrounds, it puts us at a huge disadvantage just economically, but I also think culturally and in terms of being open to different things," Edna Yang, co-executive director of American Gateways, told Axios.
  • "That's how communities develop, they change, they become adaptable."
Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

Ruth Wasem, a professor of public policy practice at the University of Texas' LBJ School, conducted an analysis for city leaders last year, revealing the broad challenges immigrants face when they come from any country and settle in a new area.

  • Affordable housing continues to be one of the most pressing challenges Austinites — both native and foreign born — face, per the report.
  • The report also found that Austin's naturalization rate of 68.5% is one of the lowest among the city's peers. However, African immigrants tend to have higher naturalization rates because they're more educated and wealthier, Wasem noted.

Of note: Despite an uptick in Black immigrants, the Austin metro has a shrinking Black population, with the share of Black residents dropping from 8% of the population in 2010 to 7% in 2020.

  • Blame that exodus on rising home prices and other affordability issues.
  • Meanwhile, other cities saw more Black residents move in.
  • That's the case for many immigrants seeking assistance from American Gateways, which offers legal services, community outreach and education to low-income immigrant communities.
    • "A lot of folks we serve — if they remain in Texas — go to other major cities because of cost of living," Yang said.

Zoom out: Roughly 4.6 million, or 1 in 10 Black people in the U.S., were born in a different country as of 2019, up from 3% in 1980, per Pew.

  • Between 1980 and 2019, the country's total Black population grew by 20 million, with the Black foreign-born population accounting for 19% of that growth.
  • The Black immigrant population will account for roughly one-third of the America's Black population's growth through 2060.

The bottom line: Austin leaders should work to correct the area's housing and affordability challenges, which can burden immigrant communities, Wasem said.

  • "It's energizing," Wasem said of the diverse growth in Texas' Black immigrant population. "Immigrants choosing to come here from all over the world just enriches the potential of our community."

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