Feb 4, 2022 - News

Philly's Black immigrant population boomed over last decade

Reproduced from Pew Research

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.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Philadelphia.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Philadelphia stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Philadelphia.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more