Philly's Black immigrant population boomed over last decade
The U.S. population of Black immigrants is climbing and diversifying — and a substantial portion live in right here in Pennsylvania.
The big picture: One in 10 Black people living in the U.S. are immigrants, a new report from the Pew Research Center found.
- The country's total Black population grew by 20 million between 1980 and 2019, with the Black foreign-born population accounting for 19% of that growth.
Zoom in: Pennsylvania's Black immigrant population jumped 156%, and Philly's increased 121% between 2000 and 2019, per Pew data.
- Pew found that the Philadelphia metro is home to about 120,000 Black immigrants.
Between the lines: There has been a sizable African community in Philly since the 1970s. Many came for educational and economic opportunities, and then immigration ramped up in the 1990s into the 2000s.
- Many are refugees. The Liberian population, in particular, saw an uptick — becoming the largest nationality group among African immigrants by 2010. A lot of the Liberian population already had family ties here from decades before.
- Other Black migrants in the region typically come from Nigeria, Ethiopia and Ghana, as well as Caribbean countries, such as Haiti and Jamaica.
The impact: After decades of immigration, parts of the city — especially West and Southwest Philadelphia — have become large and strong Black immigrant communities. And they're expected to keep growing.
- "We are no longer transient. We are a permanent part of the community," Voffee Jabateh, CEO of the Philly-based African Cultural Alliance of North America and a Liberian immigrant, told Axios.
HIAS Pennsylvania and other local agencies that focus on at-risk immigrants and refugees have resettled immigrants from West African countries to West Philadelphia over the last decade.
- The groups targeted West Philly because of lower housing costs and access to language programs.
- "[Philadelphia] is a city that is welcoming to Black and brown immigrants, and we as a city have worked very hard to create that image, and I think it's been successful," said HIAS Pennsylvania's executive director Cathryn Miller-Wilson,
What to watch: The Black immigrant population in the U.S. will likely double and account for roughly one-third of America's Black population growth through 2060, Pew estimates.
- Jabateh noted that Philadelphia's already sizable immigrant population will entice others to come.
- "This boom will only get bigger," Jabateh said.
Of note: Pew uses U.S. Black immigrant population to refer to all people who self-identify as Black and were born outside of the U.S. to non-U.S. citizen parents.
- This includes people who identify as single-race Black, multiracial Black and Black Hispanic people.
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