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Haitian Immigrants in the United States

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Haitian Immigrants in the United States

Drummers at an event in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami

Drummers at an event in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami. (Photo: Knight Foundation)

The United States is the top global destination for Haitian migrants, although significant migration is relatively recent. The first major Haitian arrivals had escaped during the brutal, three-decade-long Duvalier father-son dictatorship, the collapse of which in 1986 led to political and economic chaos in Haiti. Beyond political instability, endemic poverty and a series of natural disasters, including a devastating 2010 earthquake, have prompted generations of Haitians to move to the United States, elsewhere in the Caribbean, and other countries throughout the Americas.

Haitian immigrants account for less than 2 percent of the U.S. foreign-born population, though their numbers increased by 17 percent from 2010 (587,000) to 2018 (687,000). After the 2010 earthquake, which caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and displaced more than 1.5 million people, the U.S. government extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to certain Haitians already in the United States, providing temporary work authorization and relief from deportation. More than 55,000 Haitian immigrants have been granted TPS.

Most Haitian immigrants living in the United States arrived before the earthquake, establishing robust communities in Florida and New York, where more than two-thirds live. The Haitian immigrant population has more than tripled in size from 1990 to 2018 (see Figure 1). In 2018, Haitians were the fourth-largest foreign-born group from the Caribbean in the United States, after immigrants from Cuba (1,344,000), the Dominican Republic (1,178,000), and Jamaica (733,000).

Figure 1. Haitian Immigrant Population in the United States, 1980-2018

Sources: Data from U.S. Census Bureau 2010 and 2018 American Community Surveys (ACS), and Campbell J. Gibson and Kay Jung, "Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign-born Population of the United States: 1850-2000" (Working Paper no. 81, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, February 2006), available online.

The United States is home to the largest Haitian migrant population in the world, with significant numbers also living in the Dominican Republic (491,000), Canada (100,000), France (82,000), and Chile (69,000). 

Click here to view an interactive map showing where migrants from Haiti and other countries have settled worldwide.

Today, nearly all Haitians in the United States who obtain lawful permanent residence (LPR status, also known as getting a green card) do so through family reunification channels, either as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or through other family-sponsored channels. Compared to all immigrants, Haitians are more likely to be naturalized U.S. citizens, participate in the labor force, and work in service occupations, but have lower household incomes.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau (the most recent 2018 American Community Survey [ACS] and pooled 2014-18 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 size, geographic distribution, and socioeconomic characteristics. 

Click on the bullet points below for more information:

Distribution by State and Key Cities

In 2014-18, two states were home to nearly 70 percent of Haitians: Florida, with 49 percent, and New York, with 19 percent.

Figure 2. Top Destination States for Haitians in the United States, 2014-18

Note: Pooled 2014-18 ACS data were used to get statistically valid estimates at the state level for smaller-population geographies. Not shown are the 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 U.S. Census Bureau pooled 2014-18 ACS.

The counties with the greatest number of Haitians were Miami-Dade County, Broward County, and Palm Beach County, all in Florida; and Kings County, NY. Together, these four counties accounted for 43 percent of the total Haitian immigrant population in the United States.

Figure 3. Top Metropolitan Destinations for Haitians in the United States, 2014-18

Note: Pooled 2014-18 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 U.S. Census Bureau pooled 2014-18 ACS.

The metropolitan areas with the most Haitian immigrants in 2014-18 were the greater Miami, New York, Boston, and Orlando metropolitan areas. These four metro areas accounted for 73 percent of Haitians in the United States.

Table 1. Top Concentrations by Metropolitan Area for the Foreign Born from Haiti, 2014-18

Source: MPI tabulation of data from the U.S. Census Bureau pooled 2014-18 ACS.

English Proficiency

Haitians (ages 5 and older) were slightly less likely to report limited English proficiency compared with the total foreign-born population (45 percent versus 47 percent), but slightly higher than Caribbean immigrants overall (43 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 46 years, similar to that of the foreign-born population (45 years) but higher than for the U.S. born (36 years). Haitians, however, were slightly younger than Caribbean immigrants overall, whose median age was 49 years.

In 2018, about 77 percent of Haitian immigrants were working age (18-64) while 16 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, 2018

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 2018 ACS.

In 2018, 79 percent of Haitians ages 25 and over in the United States had a high school degree or higher, compared to 78 percent of the overall Caribbean immigrant population and 73 percent of the total foreign-born population. The share of Haitian immigrants with a bachelor’s degree or higher was 19 percent, compared to 32 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 57 percent).

Haitian immigrants were more likely to be employed in service occupations and less likely to be in management and related 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, 2018

Source: MPI tabulation of data from the U.S. Census Bureau 2018 ACS.

Income and Poverty

The median household income for Haitians in 2018 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 $53,800 in 2018, compared to $59,800 for foreign-born households and $49,400 for Caribbean households. For comparison, the median income for households headed by the native born was $62,300. 

Haitians were about as likely to live in poverty as the overall immigrant population (14 percent compared to 15 percent) but slightly less likely than the Caribbean foreign-born population (16 percent). Thirteen percent of the U.S. born are in poverty.

Immigration Pathways and Naturalization

In 2018, 61 percent of the 687,000 Haitians residing in the United States were naturalized citizens, compared to 51 percent of all immigrants.

Similar to the overall immigrant population, 50 percent of Haitian immigrants arrived in the United States prior to 2000, 24 percent came between 2000 and 2009, and 26 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, 2018

Source: MPI tabulation of data from the U.S. Census Bureau 2018 ACS.

In fiscal year 2018, approximately 21,400 Haitians obtained a green card, according to Department of Homeland Security data. Of those, the overwhelming majority (97 percent) did so as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or through other family-sponsored preferences (see Figure 7). In contrast, virtually no Haitians obtained a green card through employment pathways, versus 13 percent of all LPRs.

Figure 7. Immigration Pathways of Haitian and All Legal Permanent Residents in the United States, 2018

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. Diversity Visa lottery: The Immigration Act of 1990 established the Diversity Visa lottery program to allow entry to immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The law states that 55,000 diversity visas in total are made available each fiscal year. Individuals born in Haiti are not eligible for the lottery.
Source: MPI tabulation of data from Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 2018 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics (Washington, DC: DHS Office of Immigration Statistics, 2020), available online.

As of November 2019, 55,300 Haitians held TPS, according to the Congressional Research Service. The future for Haitian TPS holders and their families remains unclear, as their TPS status awaits rulings in two federal court cases. Haiti’s TPS designation was set to expire July 22, 2019. However, the termination date was extended by preliminary injunctions in two lawsuits challenging the administration’s termination of Haitians’ protected status (Ramos v. Nielsen and Saget v. Trump). The latest extension is set to expire January 4, 2021. If the Trump administration prevails in its challenges to preliminary injunctions in both cases, Haitian immigrants living under TPS designation could face deportation after 120 days of the courts’ mandate.

Health Coverage

The Haitian-born population held health insurance at roughly the same rate as the overall immigrant population (83 percent compared to 81 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, 2018

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 2018 ACS.

Diaspora

The Haitian diaspora in the United States is comprised of approximately 1.2 million individuals who were either born in Haiti or reported Haitian ancestry, according to tabulations from the U.S. Census Bureau 2018 ACS.

Remittances

The Haitian diaspora in the United States assists Haiti’s recovery from natural disasters, supports children’s education, and alleviates communities’ poverty. Remittances are a major source of foreign aid to Haiti, accounting for more than a third of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Remittances sent to Haiti via formal channels have increased nearly sixfold since 2000, reaching $3.3 billion in 2019, according to World Bank estimates. Global remittances represented 37 percent of the country’s GDP in 2019, making Haiti the second-largest recipient of remittances in the world relative to its GDP after Tonga (38 percent).

Figure 9. Annual Remittance Flows to Haiti, 1980 to 2019

Note: The 2019 figure represents World Bank estimates.
Source: MPI tabulations of data from the World Bank Prospects Group, “Annual Remittances Data,” April 2020 update.

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

Sources

Abdaladze, Nino. 2020. Haitians Make Long Continental Transit in Hope for a Better Future. Cronkite News/Arizona PBS, July 20, 2020. Available online.

Bradley, Megan. 2014. Four Years After the Haiti Earthquake, the Search for Solutions to Displacement Continues. Brookings Institution blog, January 13, 2014. Available online.

BBC News. 2016. Hurricane Matthew: Haiti South “90% Destroyed.” BBC News, October 8, 2016. Available online.

Cohn, D’Vera, Jeffrey S. Passel, and Kristen Bialik. 2019. Many Immigrants with Temporary Protected Status Face Uncertain Future in U.S. Pew Research Center Fact Tank blog, November 27, 2019. Available online.

Dubois, Laurent. 2014. How Will Haiti Reckon with the Duvalier Years? The New Yorker, October 6, 2014. Available online.

Gibson, Campbell J. and Kay Jung. 2006. Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign-born Population of the United States: 1850-2000. Working Paper no. 81, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, February 2006. Available online.

Schwartz, Timothy T. with Yves-François 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.

Sidder, Aaron. 2016. How Cholera Spread So Quickly Through Haiti. National Geographic, August 18, 2016. Available online.

Taft-Morales, Maureen. 2020. Haiti’s Political and Economic Conditions. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, updated March 5, 2020. Available online.

Terry, Kyilah. 2019. New Haitian Migration Patterns End in Displacement. UCLA Latin American Institute, April 17, 2019. Available online.

U.S. Census Bureau. N.d. 2018 American Community Survey. Accessed July 1, 2020. Available online.

---. 2020. 2018 American Community Survey. Accessed from Steven Ruggles, Katie Genadek, Ronald Goeken, Josiah Grover, and Matthew Sobek. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 7.0 [dataset]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2020. Available online.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 2019. Continuation of Documentation for Beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status Designations for El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan. 2019. Federal Register 85 (59403), November 4, 2019. Available online.

---. 2019. DHS Extends TPS Documentation for Six Countries. USCIS News alert, November 1, 2019. Available online.

---. 2020. Approximate Active DACA Recipients: Country of Birth as of March 31, 2020. Available online.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 2010. Statement from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian Nationals. Press release, January 15, 2010. Available online.

U.S. DHS Office of Immigration Statistics. 2020. 2018 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics. Washington, DC: DHS Office of Immigration Statistics. Available online.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). 2020. An Additional 6.7 Million Children under 5 Could Suffer from Wasting This Year Due to COVID-19. Press release, July 27, 2020. Available online.

United Nations Population Division. N.d. International Migrant Stock by Destination and Origin. Accessed July 1, 2020. Available online.

Wilson, Jill H. 2020. Temporary Protected Status: Overview and Current Issues. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, updated April 1, 2020. Available online.

World Bank Prospects Group. 2020. Annual Remittances Data, April 2020 update. Available online.