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E.g., 09/21/2017

Haitian Immigrants in the United States

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Haitian Immigrants in the United States

Haitian drummers at the Haitian-American Book Fair in Miami.

Drummers perform at the Haitian-American Book Fair in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami. (Photo: Mitchell Zachs/Knight Foundation)

In recent decades, the United States has experienced a significant increase in the number of immigrants from Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. While just 5,000 Haitians lived in the United States in 1960, migrants from Haiti began arriving in larger numbers following the collapse of the Jean-Claude Duvalier dictatorship in the late 1980s. Beyond political instability, endemic poverty and natural disasters, including a devastating 2010 earthquake, have propelled migration to the United States, often by boat. In 2015, there were 676,000 Haitian immigrants in the United States, up from 587,000 in 2010; Haitians account for less than 2 percent of the U.S. foreign-born population.

The future for tens of thousands of Haitian immigrants remains unclear as the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation allowing them to remain in the United States is set to expire on January 22, 2018. The U.S. government swiftly added Haiti to the list of TPS designation countries after a 2010 earthquake that caused tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 1.5 million people. More than 58,000 Haitian immigrants already in the United States prior to the 2010 earthquake have been granted TPS, which provides work authorization and relief from deportation.

The Trump administration is monitoring Haiti’s earthquake recovery to determine whether to renew the TPS designation in 2018. In May 2017, following the announcement of the most recent six-month extension, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly advised TPS holders to use the time to “prepare for and arrange their departure” in case the designation is not renewed. Haiti’s recovery has been hampered by Hurricane Matthew and a severe cholera outbreak, in addition to political instability and deep poverty. 

Most Haitian immigrants in the United States arrived before the earthquake and have formed well-established communities in Florida and New York. From 1990 to 2015, the Haitian immigrant population tripled in size (see Figure 1). In 2015, Haitians were the fourth largest group from the Caribbean, after immigrants from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica.

Figure 1. Haitian Immigrant Population in the United States, 1980-2015

Source: Data from U.S. Census Bureau 2010 and 2015 American Community Surveys (ACS), and 1980, 1990, and 2000 Decennial Census.

The United States is home to the largest Haitian migrant population, with significant numbers also living in the Dominican Republic (329,000), Canada (93,000), France (74,000), and the Bahamas (28,000). Following the 2010 earthquake, a large number of Haitians also migrated to Brazil to seek work, but amid economic and political turmoil there in the last several years, many have moved on to destinations including Chile and the United States. Governments in Central America were overwhelmed in 2016 when tens of thousands of Haitians made their way northward, prompting border closures and buildups of migrants in camps along the route. Responding to the surge in Haitians arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Obama administration in late 2016 resumed deportations of Haitians ordered removed.

Click here to view an interactive map showing where migrants from Haiti (and elsewhere) have settled internationally.


Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau (the most recent 2015 American Community Survey [ACS] and pooled 2011-15 ACS data), the Department of Homeland Security’s Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, and World Bank annual remittances data, this Spotlight provides information on the Haitian immigrant population in the United States, examining its, geographic distribution, and socioeconomic characteristics.

Definitions

The U.S. Census Bureau defines the foreign born as individuals who had no U.S. citizenship at birth. The foreign-born population includes naturalized citizens, lawful permanent residents, refugees and asylees, legal nonimmigrants (including those on student, work, or other temporary visas), and persons residing in the country without authorization.

The terms foreign born and immigrant are used interchangeably and refer to those who were born in another country and later emigrated to the United States. 

Click on the bullet points below for more information:

Distribution by State and Key Cities

In 2011-15, two states were home to nearly 70 percent of Haitians: Florida and New York. The counties with the greatest number of Haitians were Miami-Dade County, FL; Broward County, FL; Kings County, NY; and Palm Beach County, FL. Together, these counties accounted for about 44 percent of the total Haitian population in the United States.

Figure 2. Top Destination States for Haitians in the United States, 2011-15

Note: Pooled 2011-15 ACS data were used to get statistically valid estimates at the state level for smaller-population geographies. Not shown are populations in Alaska and Hawaii, which are small in size; for details, visit the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) Data Hub for an interactive map showing geographic distribution of immigrants by state and county, available online.
Source: MPI tabulation of data from the U.S. Census Bureau pooled 2011-15 ACS.

Click here for an interactive map that shows the geographic distribution of immigrants by state and county. Select Haiti or another country from the dropdown menu to see which states and counties have the most immigrants.

The metropolitan areas with the most Haitian immigrants in 2011-15 are the greater Miami, New York, Boston, and Orlando areas. These four metro areas accounted for 74 percent of Haitians in the United States.

Figure 3. Top Metropolitan Destinations for Haitians in the United States, 2011-15

Note: Pooled 2011-15 ACS data were used to get statistically valid estimates at the metropolitan statistical-area level for smaller-population geographies.
Source: MPI tabulation of data from the U.S. Census Bureau pooled 2011-15 ACS.

Click here for an interactive map showing the concentration of immigrants by metropolitan area. Select Haiti or another origin country from the dropdown menu to see which metro areas have the most immigrants.

Table 1. Top Concentrations by Metropolitan Area for the Foreign Born from Haiti, 2011-15

Source: MPI tabulation of data from the U.S. Census Bureau pooled 2011-15 ACS.

English Proficiency

Haitians (ages 5 and older) were about as likely to report limited English proficiency (LEP) as the total foreign-born population (51 percent versus 49 percent). However, the LEP share was higher among immigrants from Haiti than of those from the Caribbean overall (44 percent).

Note: Limited English proficiency refers to those who indicated on the ACS questionnaire that they spoke English less than “very well.”

Age, Education, and Employment

The median age for Haitian immigrants was 45 years, older than both the overall foreign-born population (44 years) and the U.S. born (36 years). Haitians, however, were younger than Caribbean immigrants overall, whose median age was 49 years.

In 2015, about 79 percent of Haitian immigrants were working age (18-64) while 15 percent were ages 65 and older. The age distribution for Haitian immigrants is almost identical to that of the total foreign-born population.

Figure 4. Age Distribution by Origin, 2015

Note: Numbers may not add up to 100 as they are rounded to the nearest whole number.
Source: MPI tabulation of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 ACS.

In 2015, 78 percent of Haitians ages 25 and over in the United States had a high school degree or higher, compared to 75 percent of the overall Caribbean immigrant population and 71 percent of the total foreign-born population. The share of Haitian immigrants with a bachelor’s degree or higher was 19 percent, compared to 29 percent of the total foreign-born population. 

Among Haitian immigrants ages 16 and older, 71 percent participated in the civilian labor force, compared to 66 percent of the overall foreign-born population and 62 percent of the U.S.-born population. Haitian immigrant women were also more likely to be in the labor force than the overall female immigrant population (66 percent compared to 55 percent).

Haitian immigrants were more likely to be employed in service occupations than both foreign- and native-born populations (see Figure 5).

Figure 5. Employed Workers in the Civilian Labor Force (ages 16 and older) by Occupation and Origin, 2015

Source: MPI tabulation of data from the U.S. Census Bureau 2015 ACS.

Income and Poverty

The median household income for Haitians in 2015 was lower than that of the overall foreign-born population, but higher than for Caribbean immigrant households. Haitian immigrant households had a median income of $47,200 in 2015 dollars, compared to $51,500 for foreign-born households and $42,400 for Caribbean households. For comparison, the median income for households headed by the native born was $56,500. 

Haitians were about as likely to live in poverty as the overall immigrant population (18 percent compared to 17 percent) and the Caribbean foreign-born population (19 percent).

Immigration Pathways and Naturalization

In 2015, 57 percent of the 676,000 Haitians residing in the United States were naturalized citizens, compared to 48 percent of all immigrants.

Similar to the overall immigrant population, 54 percent of Haitian immigrants arrived in the United States prior to 2000, 30 percent arrived between 2000 and 2009, and 16 percent in 2010 or later, including those arriving in the wake of the 2010 earthquake (see Figure 6). 

Figure 6. Haitians and All Immigrants in the United States by Period of Arrival, 2015

Source: MPI tabulation of data from the U.S. Census Bureau 2015 ACS. Numbers may not add up to 100 as they are rounded to the nearest whole number.

In fiscal year 2015, 17,000 Haitians obtained lawful permanent resident (LPR) status (also known as getting a green card), according to Department of Homeland Security data. Of those, 91 percent did so as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or through other family-sponsored preferences (50 percent and 41 percent, respectively; see Figure 7).

Figure 7. Immigration Pathways of Haitian and All Legal Permanent Residents in the United States, 2015

Notes: Family-sponsored: Includes adult children and siblings of U.S. citizens as well as spouses and children of green-card holders. Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens: Includes spouses, minor children, and parents of U.S. citizens. The Diversity Visa Lottery: The Immigration Act of 1990 established the Diversity Visa Lottery to allow entry to immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The law states that 55,000 diversity visas are made available each fiscal year.
Source: MPI tabulation of data from Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 2015 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics (Washington, DC: DHS Office of Immigration Statistics, 2016), available online.

In contrast, virtually no Haitians obtained a green card through employment pathways or by winning the Diversity Visa Lottery. Comparatively, the foreign-born population overall was less likely to use family-sponsored pathways (20 percent), but more likely to use employment-based preferences (14 percent) to obtain LPR status. 

Health Coverage

The Haitian-born population held health insurance at roughly the same rate as the overall immigrant population (79 percent compared to 78 percent). A larger share of Haitian immigrants had private health insurance than public coverage, at similar rates as the total foreign-born population.

Figure 8. Health Coverage for Haitians, All Immigrants, and the Native Born, 2015

Note: The sum of shares by type of insurance is likely to be greater than 100 because people may have more than one type of insurance.
Source: MPI tabulation of data from the U.S. Census Bureau 2015 ACS.

Diaspora

The Haitian diaspora in the United States is comprised of approximately 1.1 million individuals who were either born in Haiti or reported Haitian ancestry, according to tabulations from the U.S. Census Bureau 2015 ACS.

Remittances

Remittances sent to Haiti via formal channels have increased nearly four-fold since 2000, reaching $2.3 billion in 2015, according to World Bank data. Global remittances represent 25 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Haitians in the United States sent more than half of all remittances to Haiti, totaling $1.3 billion in 2015.

Figure 9. Annual Remittance Flows to Haiti, 1980 to 2016

Notes: Data are unavailable for the 1990 to 1997 period. The 2016 figure represents World Bank estimates.
Source: MPI tabulations of data from the World Bank Prospects Group, “Annual Remittances Data,” April 2017 update.

Visit the Data Hub’s collection of interactive remittances tools, which track remittances by inflow and outflow, between countries, and over time.

Sources

Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 2017. Secretary Kelly’s Statement on the Limited Extension of Haiti’s Designation for Temporary Protected Status. Press release, May 22, 2017. Available online.

DHS Office of Immigration Statistics. 2016. 2015 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics. Washington, DC: DHS Office of Immigration Statistics. Available online.

Schwartz, Timothy, Yves-Francois Pierre, and Eric Calpas. 2011. Building Assessments and Rubble Removal in Quake-Affected Neighborhoods in Haiti. Washington, DC: U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Available online.

U.S. Census Bureau. 2016. 2015 American Community Survey. American FactFinder. Available online.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 2017. Temporary Protected Status Designated Country: Haiti. Updated May 24, 2017. Available online.

---. 2017. Memorandum for the Secretary: Haiti’s Designation for Temporary Protected Status. Memorandum, April 10, 2017. Available online.

World Bank Prospects Group. 2017. Annual Remittances Data, April 2017 update. Available online.

---. N.d. GDP (Current US$): Haiti. Accessed July 27, 2017. Available online.