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The Changing Demographics of Black America: Key Findings

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The black population in the United States is diverse and growing. A new analysis of the US Census Bureau data by the Pew Research Center examines the demographics of this population in 2019. Here are the key findings from that analysis. A full statistical portrait of the black population can be found in this factsheet. To see how we defined this population and subgroups, visit the terminology section.

This analysis of the black population in the United States uses the latest demographic data available. It is based on data from the US Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey, which is provided through the University of Minnesota’s Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS).

This analysis relies on self-identification of race and ethnicity in US Census Bureau products to identify the country’s black population. However, a person’s racial and ethnic self-identification may not be fixed and instead may change over time. In addition, the racial and ethnic categories used by the US Census Bureau can change as the nation’s self-image changes. These changes can affect how many people identify as black (or another race). The full methodology can be found here.

The black population is growing. In 2019 there were 46.8 million people in the United States who identified themselves as black. The black population has grown by more than 10 million since 2000, when 36.2 million of the country’s population were identified as black, a 29% increase in nearly two decades. This population growth rate is higher than that of the white population (13%) but less than that of the Asian and Hispanic US populations (89% and 72%, respectively) over the same period.

The growth of the black population is due to both those born in the United States and those born abroad. While 90% of the black population in the US were born in the US – a number that has increased by 25% since 2000 – the foreign-born population has seen a more dramatic increase. More than 4.6 million blacks in the US were born outside the country in 2019, meaning 10% of the black population were born overseas. This is almost a 90% increase from 2000 when the foreign-born population comprised 2.4 million, or 7% of the total black population of the United States. Most of the black immigrants (88%) were born in African or Caribbean countries.

The black population becomes more diverse as it grows. Among those who identify themselves as “Black or African American” on census forms, the proportion who say this is their only racial or ethnic identification has declined slightly over the past two decades. In 2019, 40.7 million, or 87%, identified their race as being solely black and their ethnicity as non-Hispanic, while about 3.7 million or 8% said their race was black and some other race (mostly white) and not is Hispanic. Another 2.4 million, or 5%, who identify as both Black and Hispanic or Black Hispanic (although not all Black Hispanics identify as Afro-Latino). These proportions have changed since 2000, when 93% identified their race and ethnicity as black.

Among the US black population, the number of multiracial and Hispanic people has increased since 2000

The black population is relatively young. In 2019, the median age of non-Hispanic blacks of any race is 35, compared to 30 in 2000. This makes the population younger than the country’s white population (median age 43) and the Asian population (38). and slightly older than the country’s Hispanic population (29). (The white and Asian populations are single-race, non-Hispanic.)

In 2019, most multiracial blacks in the United States were Generation Z or younger, reflecting their youth

The black population is a little younger when you include those who identify with more than one race or ethnic group. The median age for the entire black population of the United States is 32, although it varies based on the identity of the black population. The average age among black Hispanics is 22 years. Meanwhile, non-Hispanic multiracial blacks are the youngest group, with a median age of 16.

Slight increase in the proportion of the black population living in the south since the 1970s

A little more than half of all black people in the United States live in the south, a proportion that has increased in part over the past few decades. The growth of the black population in the south indicates a departure from previous black migration patterns. After the Great Migration began in the late 1910s, growing proportions of the black population lived in regions of the United States outside of the South. But after 1970, the proportion of these people living in the south began to grow, a trend that continues to this day.

Overall, the proportion of the black population living in the south rose by 4 percentage points between 1970 (52%) and 2019 (56%).

A growing proportion of black adults have a college degree. The number of black adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher education has more than doubled since 2000. About 3 million black adults ages 25 and older, or 15%, had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2000, and that number rose to 6.7 million (23%) in 2019.

Black undergraduate graduates have more than doubled since 2000

It is noteworthy that the proportion of the black population with at least a bachelor’s degree has increased at a similar rate to that of the general population. In 2000, about a quarter (24%) of the total US population ages 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or above. In 2019 this proportion rose to 33%, an increase of 9 points. The proportion of black adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher also rose by almost 9 points from 15% to 23% during this period.

There was a similar upward trend in black adults aged 25 and over with a Masters degree or higher. While around 1 million (5% of black adults) had advanced degrees in 2000, that number rose to nearly 2.6 million, or 9%, in 2019.

When it comes to different subgroups of the black population, the multiracial black population has the highest proportion of adults aged 25 and over with a bachelor’s degree (20%) and an advanced degree (12%). Racial black adults and black Hispanics have a slightly lower proportion of those with a bachelor’s degree (14% and 15%, respectively) and an advanced degree (9% and 8%, respectively).

The proportion of black adults aged 25 and over without a high school diploma or equivalent degree has fallen by more than half since 2000 – from 28% of black adults in this age group without a degree in 2000 to 13% in 2019, a decrease of 15 points over almost two decades.

Note: Here is the methodology for this report.

Christine Tamir is a research analyst with a focus on global migration and Hispanic trends at the Pew Research Center.

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