West Indian Americans
Total population
0.9% of the total U.S. population (2016)
Regions with significant populations
New York City, Florida, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Georgia, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, Maryland, Washington D.C.

Mainly: English-based creole languages (Jamaican Creole, Jamaican Patois, Trinidadian Creole, Tobagonian Creole, Bajan Creole, Sranan Tongo, Virgin Islands Creole, etc.), French, French-based creole languages (Haitian Creole, Antillean Creole), English, Trinidadian English, Spanish, Papiamento
Minority: Dutch, Caribbean Hindustani


Predominantly: Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Yoruba, Amerindian Religion, Rastafari, Traditional African Religion, Afro-American religions Minority: Buddhism, Judaism, Jainism, Bahá'í

Related ethnic groups

Taíno, Arawak, African Americans, Indo-Caribbean American, English, French, Dutch, German, Asian, Caribbean Canadians

Caribbean born Populations, 1960-2009[2]
Year Number

West Indian Americans or Caribbean Americans are Americans who can trace their recent ancestry to the Caribbean, unless they are of native descent. As of 2016, about 3,019,686 people residing in the United States — 0.934% of the total US population — have West Indian ancestry.[1]

The Caribbean is the source of the United States' earliest and largest Black immigrant group and the primary source of growth of the Black population in the U.S. The region has exported more of its people than any other region of the world since the abolition of slavery in 1834.[3] While the largest Caribbean immigrant sources to the U.S. are Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Haiti, U.S. citizen migrants also come from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Caribbean immigration to the United States[]

17th to mid-19th century[]

The history of African-Caribbean immigration in the United States can be traced back to slavery when the British colonies in the Americas shifted enslaved Africans to different territories, as the demands of capital and plantation economy dictated.

First Africans from the West Indies who arrived in the United States were slaves brought to South Carolina in the 17th century. These slaves, many of whom were born in Africa, number among the first people of African origin imported to the British colonies of North America. Over time, Barbadian slaves would make up a significant part of the Black population in Virginia, mainly in the Virginia tidewater region of the Chesapeake Bay. The number of enslaved Africans bought from the Caribbean increased in the 18th century, as the Thirteen Colonies (the future continental U.S.) broadened its trade relations with other Caribbean islands.

The number of enslaved Africans imported from the Caribbean decreased after the New York Slave Revolt of 1712, as many white colonists blamed the incident on slaves recently arrived from the Caribbean. Nevertheless, between 1715 and 1741 most of the slaves of the colony remained from the West Antilles (hailing from Jamaica, Barbados and Antigua). However, after the New York slave revolt of 1741, slaves imported from the Caribbean were severely curtailed, and most enslaved Africans were brought directly from Africa.

Although Caribbean immigration to the United States was relatively small in the first years of 19th century, it grew significantly after the end of the American Civil War in 1865, which brought about the abolition of slavery. In the 19th century, the U.S. attracted many Caribbeans who excelled in various professions such as craftsmen, scholars, teachers, preachers, doctors, inventors, religious (the Barbadian Joseph Sandiford Atwell was the first black man after the Civil War to be ordained in the Episcopal Church),[4] comedians (as the Bahamian Bert Williams), politics (as Robert Brown Elliott, U.S Congressman and Attorney General of South Carolina), poets, songwriters, and activists (as the brothers James Weldon and John Rosamond Johnson). From the end of the 19th century up to 1905, most West Indian people emigrated to South Florida, New York and Massachusetts. However, shortly after, New York would become the main destination for the West Indian immigrants.[3]

World War II through the 21st century[]

Immigration from the region to the U.S. gained momentum during World War II when 50,000 black and white Caribbeans arrived in the 1940s, taking advantage of the rapidly expanding war economy and post-war economic growth. Thousands came as legal migrant workers brought to work in agriculture, primarily on Florida’s sugar plantations. By the end of the war, thousands of contract workers from the Caribbean were employed as W2 workers [3]

Most of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America historically have had little tradition of immigration to America, before the 1960s. Post 1965 saw a tremendous influx of rural working-class migrants. Proximity to the U.S., fluency in English and Civil Rights legislation were reasons for the disproportionate numbers of Caribbean outflows. The collapse of agriculture in many islands had devastated their economies, the growing replacement of agriculture by tourism in the Eastern Caribbean had greatly increased the urban population and led to neglect of rural communities as well as greater migration to the U.S. from the Caribbean countryside.[3]

The influx of direct, capital-intensive and labor-intensive foreign investment has accelerated the push to migrate out of the region, to the extent that these investments overwhelmed small-scale agriculture and manufacturing and displace workers who sought jobs elsewhere.[3]

Today, there is a fourth wave of Caribbean migration in United States.[5] The number of Caribbean immigrants grew up from 193,922 in 1960 to 2 million in 2009.[6]


The vast majority of West Indian Americans are of African Afro-Caribbean descent, with the remaining portion mainly made up of multi-racials and Indo-Caribbean people, especially in the Guyanese and Trinidadian communities, where people of Indo-Caribbean descent make up a significant portion of the populations. Over 70 percent of non-Latino Caribbean immigrants were from Jamaica and Haiti, as of 2010. Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, the Bahamas, Barbados, and Grenada, among others, also have significant immigrant populations within the United States. Though sometimes divided by language, West Indian Americans share a common Caribbean culture. Of the Latino population, the Puerto Rican, Dominican, Nicaraguan, Panamanian, Cuban, and Costa Rican populations are the most culturally similar to the non-Latino West Indian community.[7]

Caribbean American communities[]

West Indian American Ancestries (excluding Latino groups) in 2016
Country/region of ancestry Caribbean
(2016 Census)[8]
Flag of Jamaica.svg Jamaican 1,132,460
Flag of Haiti.svg Haitian 1,049,779
Flag of Guyana.svg Guyanese 214,315
Flag of Trinidad and Tobago.svg Trinidadian and Tobagonian 227,523
Flag of United Kingdom.svg British West Indies 103,244
Flag of Bahamas.svg Bahamian 55,637
Flag of Barbados.svg Barbadian 71,482
Flag of Belize.svg Belizean 62,369
Flag of Netherlands.svg Dutch West Indian 42,808
Flag of Grenada.svg Grenadian 25,924
Flag of Antigua and Barbuda.svg Antiguan and Barbudan 15,199
Flag of the United States Virgin Islands.svg Virgin Islands 20,375
Flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.svg Vincentian 13,547
Flag of Saint Lucia.svg Saint Lucian 10,364
Flag of Saint Kitts and Nevis.svg Saint Kitts and Nevis 6,368
Flag of Dominica.svg Dominican 6,071
Flag of Bermuda.svg Bermudian 5,823
Flag of Suriname.svg Surinamese 2,833
Flag of Aruba.svg Aruban 1,970
Flag of France.svg French West Indies 1,915
French Guiana 1,128
Flag of Sint Maarten.svg Sint Maarten 352
West Indians 264,101
Other West Indians 7,031
About 3 million


In Florida 549,722 West Indians(excluding Hispanic origin groups) were foreign born as of 2016. Florida had the largest number of resident West Indian(excluding Hispanic origin groups) immigrants in 2016, followed by New York with 490,826 according to the US census.

As of 2016, 9.8% (4,286,266) of the total foreign born residence in the United States was born in the Caribbean.[9]

In 2016, 18%(3,750,000) of Florida's population reported ancestry from the Caribbean.

State/territory Non-Latino West Indian-American
population (2010 Census)[10][11]
Percentage[note 1][11]
 Alabama 8,850 0.1
 Alaska 1,195 0.1
 Arizona 7,676 0.1
 Arkansas 5,499 0.2
 California 76,968 0.2
 Colorado 7,076 0.1
 Connecticut 87,149 2.4
 Delaware 6,454 0.8
 District of Columbia 7,785 1.2
 Florida 927,031 4.5
Georgia (U.S. state) Georgia 128,599 1.25
 Hawaii 2,816 0.2
 Idaho 694 0.0
 Illinois 27,038 0.2
 Indiana 7,420 0.1
 Iowa 1,710 0.0
 Kansas 2,775 0.0
 Kentucky 5,407 0.1
 Louisiana 7,290 0.1
 Maine 2,023 0.1
 Maryland 62,358 1.0
 Massachusetts 123,226 1.9
 Michigan 15,482 0.1
 Minnesota 6,034 0.1
 Mississippi 1,889 0.0
 Missouri 6,509 0.1
 Montana 593 0.0
 Nebraska 1,629 0.0
 Nevada 5,967 0.2
 New Hampshire 2,766 0.2
 New Jersey 141,828 1.6
 New Mexico 2,869 0.1
 New York 844,064 4.3
 North Carolina 32,283 0.3
 North Dakota 377 0.0
 Ohio 14,844 0.1
 Oklahoma 21,187 0.5
 Oregon 3,896 0.1
 Pennsylvania 74,799 0.6
 Rhode Island 6,880 0.7
 South Carolina 10,865 0.2
 South Dakota 474 0.0
 Tennessee 6,130 0.0
 Texas 70,000 0.2
 Utah 1,675 0.0
 Vermont 375 0.0
 Virginia 40,172 0.5
 Washington 8,766 0.1
 West Virginia 1,555 0.0
 Wisconsin 5,623 0.0
 Wyoming 526 0.0
USA 4 million 1.3%

U.S. Counties with largest West Indian American populations in 2016[]

  1. Kings County, New York 305,950 (11.6%)
  2. Broward County, Florida 277,646 (14.5%)
  3. Miami-Dade County, Florida 184,393 (6.8%)
  4. Queens County, New York 166,952 (7.2%)
  5. Palm Beach County, Florida 126,020 (8.7%)
  6. Bronx County, New York 115,348 (7.9%)


More than half of Caribbean immigrants either spoke only English or spoke English "very well." In 2009, 33.0 percent of Caribbean immigrants reported speaking only English and 23.9 percent reported speaking English "very well." In contrast, 42.8 percent of Caribbean immigrants were limited English proficient (LEP), meaning they reported speaking English less than "very well." Within this group, 9.7 percent reported that they did not speak English at all, 16.5 percent reported speaking English "well," and 16.7 percent reported speaking English "but not well."[7]


According to the US census for 2016. West Indian Americans of the civilian employed population 16 years and over were 1,549,890. 32.6% were employed in Management, business, science, and arts occupations, 28.5% in Service occupations, 22.2% in Sales and office occupations, 6.1% in Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations, and 10.5% in Production, transportation, and material moving occupations.[12]


As of 2016 West Indian Americans are estimated to have a median household income of $51,945. West Indians also have a median family income of $60,404. Married-couple family: $78,292, Male householder, no spouse present, family: $49,606, Female householder, no husband present, family: $40,333. Their Individual per capita income(dollars) was $25,402.[12]

Education attainment[]

As of 2016, 26.6 percent of West Indian Americans 25 years and over have a bachelor's degree or higher. Male, bachelor's degree or higher was 23% and Female, bachelor's degree or higher was 29.5%.

Related ethnic groups and topics[]

  • Panamanian American
  • Dominican American
  • Puerto Rican American
  • Cuban American
  • Costa Rican American
  • Brazilian American
  • African American
  • African immigration to the United States
  • List of Countries in the Caribbean
  • History of the Caribbean
  • Afro-Caribbean
  • Indo-Caribbean
  • Spanish Caribbean

Contributions to American culture[]

There are close to 50 Caribbean carnivals throughout North America that attest to the permanence of the Caribbean immigration experience. West Indians brought music, such as soca, chutney, chutney-soca, filmi, calypso, reggae, compas (kompa) and now reggaeton, which has a profound impact on U.S. popular culture. Cultural expressions, and the prominence of first-and second-generation Caribbean figures in U.S. labor and grassroots politics for many decades also testify to the long tradition and established presence.[3]

National Caribbean American Heritage Month[]

National Caribbean American Heritage Month is celebrated in June. The heritage month was first observed in 2006, after being unanimously adpoted by the House of Representatives on June 27, 2005 in H. Con. Res. 71, sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, recognizing the significance of Caribbean people and their descendants in the history and culture of the United States.[13]

On June 5, 2006, George W. Bush issued a presidential proclamation declaring than June be annually recognized as National Caribbean American Heritage Month to celebrate the contributions of Caribbean Americans (both naturalized and US citizens by birth) in the United States.[14] Since the declaration, the White House has issued an annual proclamation recognizing June as National Caribbean-American Heritage Month.[15]

See also[]

  • List of West Indian communities in the United States
  • Caribbean immigration to New York City
  • Labor Day Carnival
  • West Indies Federation
  • Indo-Caribbean American

Further reading[]



  1. ^ Percentage of the state population that identifies itself as West Indian relative to the state/territory population as a whole.


  1. ^ a b "United States - Selected Population Profile in the United States (West Indian (excluding Hispanic origin groups) (300-359))". 2008 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau.;ACS_2008_1YR_G00_S0201PR:575;ACS_2008_1YR_G00_S0201T:575;ACS_2008_1YR_G00_S0201TPR:575&-qr_name=ACS_2008_1YR_G00_S0201&-qr_name=ACS_2008_1YR_G00_S0201PR&-qr_name=ACS_2008_1YR_G00_S0201T&-qr_name=ACS_2008_1YR_G00_S0201TPR&-ds_name=ACS_2008_1YR_G00_&-TABLE_NAMEX=&-ci_type=A&-charIterations=423&-geo_id=01000US&-format=&-_lang=en. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  2. ^ "Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign-born Population of the United States: 1850-1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Fraizer, Martin. "Continuity and change in Caribbean immigration". People's World. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  4. ^ Dickerson, Dennis C.. "Joseph Sandiford Atwell (1831–1881)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  5. ^ Caribbean Migration - AAME - In Motion: The African-American.
  6. ^ US in Foco: Caribbean Immigrants in the United States. Posted by Kristen McCabe, from Migration Policy Institute, in April 2011. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
  7. ^ a b McCabe, Kristine. "Caribbean Immigrants in the United States". Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  8. ^ "Table 1. First, Second, and Total Responses to the Ancestry Question by Detailed Ancestry Code: 2000". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2013-06-09. 
  9. ^ "Place of Birth for the Foreign-born Population in the United States", Census Reporter.
  10. ^ "2010 Census". Medgar Evers College. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  11. ^ a b US Census Bureau: Table QT-P10 Hispanic or Latino by Type: 2010 retrieved January 22, 2012 - select state from drop-down menu
  12. ^ a b "SELECTED POPULATION PROFILE IN THE UNITED STATES | 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates", United States Census.
  13. ^ Congress (2010-07-16) (in en). Congressional Record (Bound Volumes). Government Printing Office. ISBN 9780160861550. 
  14. ^ Lorick-Wilmot, Yndia S. (2017-08-29) (in en). Stories of Identity among Black, Middle Class, Second Generation Caribbeans: We, Too, Sing America. Springer. ISBN 9783319622088. 
  15. ^ "June is Caribbean-American Heritage Month! | NRCS Caribbean Area" (in en). United States Department of Agriculture.