The Impact Of The Black Caribbeans' Migration To New York City On Their Socioeconomic Status

Identification and Evaluation of Sources

Black Caribbeans were apart of a larger scale of Black immigrants that migrated to the U.S. Analyzing the migration patterns and factors that come into play will aid in this investigation to examine the research question: “How did the migration of Black Caribbeans to New York City impact their socioeconomic status?”. To fully address this question, the conditions Caribbean immigrants faced before and after migrating to New York will be evaluated.

The first source being evaluated is titled, “Introduction: New York City and the New Caribbean Immigration: A Contextual Statement”. Written in 1979, it details Caribbean immigration into New York City by Roy Bryce-Laporte, exploring the demographics and cultural aspects of their migration. This is relevant to the investigation because it gives insight into the degree of economic developments in New York in relation to the Caribbean emigration movement. This is relevant to the question because it addresses the increase in Caribbean immigrants and economic outcomes. A value of the origin of the Roy Bryce source is that it comes from a well-distinguished sociologist of the African diaspora and black migration to and from the United States. A value of the purpose is that the information is justified by facts in which the knowledge needed for my evaluation is useful and the point of view is objective. It was published on the behalf of the Center for Migration Studies and was written for the Smithsonian Institution. Its purpose is to realize the changes politically and economically before and after the migration to New York. A value of the content is that it illustrates the migrant flow and how it shifts the demographics. A limitation of the content is that for a portion of this source has a numerous amount of statistics.

The second source being evaluated is titled, “Structural Constraints and Lived Realities: Negotiating Racial and Ethnic Identities for African Caribbeans in the United States”. Written in July of 2015 and published on Sage Publications on behalf of the Journal of Black Studies. A value of origin of the secondary source is that both writers Caralee Jones and Christy Erving focus on the interpersonal relationships and racial disparities among African Americans in the US. The article detailed the “Structural Constraints and Lived Realities for Caribbeans in the United States”. A value of the purpose is that it directly addresses my question on the effect of socioeconomic status in relation to the Black Caribbean migration movement. A value of the content is that it does not focus on the socialism aspect as an entirety, but also goes into the historical context. A limitation of the purpose is that does answer my research question, yet it lacks depth on the socioeconomic factors that come into play with the increase in migrants. It answers the question but needs more detail. The content is limited as it uses more qualitative and quantitative data. A limitation is also the socialism aspect because it is difficult to also show historical text without veering into sociology with the topic of socioeconomics and migration.


Black Caribbean immigrants have always had a presence in the United States (U.S.). But after the passing of the Hart-Celler Immigration Act on October 3rd of 1965, the amount of Black Caribbean immigrants had increased tremendously in the United States (U.S.), mainly in New York. That rapid growth of the Caribbeans had started to stir up a debate. Tied to that was the socioeconomic success of Caribbean immigrants and how they defined themselves: ethnically and racially. The Hart-Celler Immigration Act abolished the quota system on immigrants and by changing the rules for immigration, especially by making reuniting families a priority, it also spurred rapid growth of migration numbers. Once immigrants were acclimated, they were able to sponsor their other family members from their native lands in a lengthy impermanent process called chain migration. This began the legacy of the Hart-Celler Act. This painted a sort of “ethnic portrait” throughout the US. As for the increase in migration for Caribbean immigrants, it affected their socioeconomic status in the transition and shaped their identities.

The identity of being an Afro Caribbean or a Black Caribbean consisted of being of descent from the regions of Jamaica, Trinidad, Bahamas, Barbados, the Dominican Republic, and etcetera. A sizeable portion of those Caribbeans had migrated to the U.S. for a better life for themselves and their families and to also “to escape the racism and discriminatory treatment meted out to Afro-Caribbeans”. Most had come from an economically devastated country but even though they were distant and isolated from the United States, they were self-sufficient and had concrete ties and statuses to this country. They had migrated at a point in the “development of capitalism and of the political, economic, and social structure of the United States” when New York City was still viewed internally and globally as a land of opportunity with the demand and place looking for driven, hard-working migrants.

As they continued to migrate to the U.S., there was a significant influx of immigrants in the northeastern region of the U.S. Yet, even though the migrant flow of the Caribbean seemed to come off as “a major characteristic of the 'new' immigration is the saliency of its Caribbean components” Caribbean immigration to the U.S. was not a new aspect. One of the states in the US that had an influx of Black Caribbean immigrants or also known as Afro Caribbeans is New York City. New York was seen as the main point of entry and settlement. It represented 'the ultimate urban frontier and remains the leading target and entrepot for Caribbean people to the United States'. The increase in immigrants happened so exponentially that it was known as the “first wave”. As the expansion continued, so did other factors that played a role in shaping their economic statuses such as social distancing, discrimination, and socioeconomic status (SES). For Black Caribbean immigrants, their identities were shaped by different perceptions of race in their country of origin, their social standing compared with African Americans, their SES, and their experiences with discrimination. Adjusting to the “Black/White racial dichotomy” in the U.S. was difficult for Caribbeans and it was found that Caribbeans resisted being assigned an African American identity because it was constricting in comparison with the identity options available in their native countries. African Caribbeans, however, shared racial group identification with African Americans but not a racial group consciousness. This social distancing in decision with deciding where they lie on the ethnic scale of identity affected their socioeconomic status.

Continuously also at this time, Black Caribbean immigrants faced discrimination during the process of migration to New York. They had acquired “an imposed negative racial identity” that stuck with them during their migration and were constantly mistreated as undesirable immigrants and treated as the 'Negro Problem'. Paradoxically, they suffered multiple 'invisibility' and 'minoritization' of status just due to their “commonly shared visibility with their native-born peers”. Which meant that these new immigrant groups coming to New York were overlooked due to certain shared commonalities with Black Americans which facilitated their control and treatment in public situations. At this point, Caribbeans were also struggling with social distancing and their socioeconomic status that to be recognized and treated as Black Americans signified to also be a problem for them. Those now cynical stereotypes associated with Blacks was what encouraged Caribbeans to opt for their ethnic identities and assume negative judgments of Black Americans. Caribbeans were then also affected by their experiences (or lack thereof) with discrimination. That now implemented fear of racial discrimination was what had resulted in African Caribbean immigrants displaying an ethnic identity. But over time, Caribbean immigrants began to discover that their ethnic identities cannot shield them from the reality of the real world and their spiraling socioeconomic mobility.

Many African Caribbeans believed their cultural values and stronger work ethic also produced greater economic success and higher educational attainment. African Caribbeans were also not able to fully separate themselves from America’s tendency to perceive them as Black, which led them to distance themselves from African Americans in some “social spheres” as a strategy for socioeconomic mobility. Most Caribbean-born individuals did not see the advantages of losing their cultural distinctiveness to fully assimilate into the ranks of African Americans, yet they share concerns with African Americans regarding inequality. It was also again argued that all Black immigrants are racialized in a 'collective Black' category with African Americans due to their phenotype and poorer socioeconomic outcomes compared with Whites. Which in this sense the question had been asked: “given their ambition, Protestant ethic, and European-colonial acculturation, what would have been their progress, status, and power in the United States were they not black or brown and of neo-colonial background?” This question asked began to start the realization that in a sense, Black Caribbean immigrants serve as a “special prism of American racism” and as this racism continued in addition, so did those negative pre-determined stereotyped of Caribbeans. Especially, once they were pre-set into laboring classes they were moved into low marginal businesses rather than mobile jobs and industries.

“Furthermore, Greer (2013) revealed in her theory of the elevated Black minority that Black immigrants might attempt to elevate their status as superior to African American, but the modifier of Black never disappears; thus, they are still subjected to the same discrimination and inequities as African Americans. Thus, African Caribbeans' racial and ethnic identities as well as their attempts to socially distance themselves from African Americans must be understood as a reflection of the broader social and economic reality of Black disadvantage within the United States.”

Those identities were shaped by socioeconomic factors. Those who opted for an ethnic identity were middle class and believed in their parents' values of hard work and education as a means for social mobility. Those who identified as African American were usually the lower class and adopted similar 'oppositional identities' as their African Americans peers, which resulted in their downward mobility. This shows that the main factors tied into Black Caribbean socioeconomic success were social distancing, discrimination, and their socioeconomic status, which was all in regards to how they identify themselves.


Throughout this investigation, it allowed me to gain an insight into some of the methods used by historians and was made aware of the challenges they face when researching on a specific topic. The most challenging obstacles I had faced was differentiating socialism and historical context, and truly really answering my research question. Except for science and math to have a direct answer, for my investigation, I had to communicate my answer efficiently. For example, the problem with having a question so close to the topic of sociology. As the role of the historian in my investigation, I had difficulty trying to have a balance of socialism and then placing it into historical context. Yet, some sources such as Introduction: New York City and the New Caribbean were written with that balance that was essential to the analysis of my question, that really tipped the scales moreover to historical context.

Designing a scope and method for my research question was also a crucial guide to answer the question to the best of my ability and understanding my role as a historian. I started off with sub-questions in relation to my main question as a whole, which really helped to know exactly to research a lot smoother. Yet, as a result, the biggest responsibility as the historian was to provide different perspectives to the historical event. Proof or lack thereof may impact historical fact or interpretation of that event which affects the historian.

Works Cited

  1. Bryce-Laporte, Roy Simón. “Introduction: New York City and the New Caribbean Immigration: A Contextual Statement.” The International Migration Review, vol. 13, no. 2, 1979, pp. 214–234. JSTOR.
  2. Foner, Nancy. The International Migration Review, vol. 28, no. 1, 1994, pp. 212–213. JSTOR.
  3. García, John A. “Caribbean Migration to the Mainland: A Review of Adaptive Experiences.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 487, 1986, pp. 114–125. JSTOR.
  4. Grasmuck, Sherri, and Ramón Grosfoguel. “Geopolitics, Economic Niches, and Gendered Social Capital among Recent Caribbean Immigrants in New York City.” Sociological Perspectives, vol. 40, no. 3, 1997, pp. 339–363. JSTOR.
  5. James, Winston. “Explaining Afro-Caribbean Social Mobility in the United States: Beyond the Sowell Thesis.” Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 44, no. 2, 2002, pp. 218–262. JSTOR.
  6. Jones, Caralee, and Christy L. Erving. “Structural Constraints and Lived Realities: Negotiating Racial and Ethnic Identities for African Caribbeans in the United States.” Journal of Black Studies, vol. 46, no. 5, 2015, pp. 521–546.
  7. Kalmijn, Matthijs. “The Socioeconomic Assimilation of Caribbean American Blacks.” Social Forces, vol. 74, no. 3, 1996, pp. 911–930. JSTOR.
  8. Krammer, Jerry. “The Hart-Celler Immigration Act of 1965.”, Center for Immigration Studies, 5 May 2019,
  9. Rogers, Reuel R. “Race-Based Coalitions Among Minority Groups: Afro-Caribbean Immigrants and African-Americans in New York City.” Urban Affairs Review, vol. 39, no. 3, Jan. 2004, pp. 283–317, doi:10.1177/1078087403258960.
  11. Warner, Oswald. “Black in America Too: Afro-Caribbean Immigrants.” Social and Economic Studies, vol. 61, no. 4, 2012, pp. 69–103. JSTOR.
  12. Waters, Mary C. “Ethnic and Racial Identities of Second-Generation Black Immigrants in New York City.” International Migration Review, vol. 28, no. 4, Dec. 1994, pp. 795–820, doi:10.1177/019791839402800408.
  13. Waters, Mary C, et al. “Immigrants and African Americans.” Harvard University, 16 June 2014.
09 March 2021
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