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Jamaican Americans

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jamaican Americans
Total population
1,171,915 (2019)[1]
0.36% of the U.S. population (2019)
Regions with significant populations
Majority in New York, Florida, Connecticut, Georgia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey
Smaller numbers in other parts of the country, including North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, Texas and California
English (American English, Jamaican English), Jamaican Patois
Predominantly Protestantism. Some adherents of Catholicism, Islam and other faiths.
Related ethnic groups
Jamaican British, Jamaican Canadians, Chinese Jamaicans, Jamaicans of African ancestry, Indo-Jamaicans, Jamaican Australians, Afro Americans, Hakka Americans, West Africans

Jamaican Americans are an ethnic group of Caribbean Americans who have full or partial Jamaican ancestry. The largest proportions of Jamaican Americans live in South Florida and New York City, both of which have been home to large Jamaican communities since the 1950s and 60s. There are also communities of Jamaican Americans residing in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Los Angeles, Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Detroit, Western New York, Rhode Island, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Delaware and New Jersey.[2]

After 1838, European colonies in the Caribbean with expanding sugar industries imported large numbers of immigrants to meet their acute labor shortage. Large numbers of Jamaicans were recruited to work in Panama and Costa Rica in the 1850s. After slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, American planters imported temporary workers, called "swallow migrants", to harvest crops on an annual basis. These workers, many of them Jamaicans, returned to their countries after harvest. Between 1881 and the beginning of World War I, the United States recruited over 250,000 workers from the Caribbean, 90,000 of whom were Jamaicans, to work on the Panama Canal. During both world wars, the United States again recruited Jamaican men for service on various American bases in the region. The vast majority of Jamaican Americans are of black Afro-Caribbean descent, and many are also some of full or partial Indian Jamaican, Chinese Jamaican, European and Lebanese descent.

Significant immigration waves

Apart from Canada and England, the U.S. houses the majority of Jamaican émigrés worldwide.[clarification needed] Jamaican immigration to the U.S. increased during the civil rights era of the 1960s. As with many other sources of Caribbean immigration, the geographical nearness of Jamaica to the U.S. increased the likelihood of migration. The economic attractiveness and general Jamaican perception of the U.S. as a land of opportunity explain continued migration flows despite economic downturn in America. Traditionally, America has experienced increased migration through means of family preference, in which U.S. citizens sponsor their immediate family. Through this category a substantial amount of Jamaican immigrants were able to enter mainly urban cities within the U.S that provided blue-collar work opportunities. Jamaican immigrants utilized employment opportunities despite the discriminatory policies that affected some Caribbean émigrés.[3]

Jamaicans comprise the largest nationality of U.S. immigrants from the English-speaking Caribbean. Because so many have assimilated into the black community, it is difficult to estimate their number. The 1990 U.S. census placed the number of documented Jamaican Americans at 435,025.


An estimated 554,897 Jamaican-born people lived in the U.S. in 2000.[4] This represents 61% of the approximate 911,000 Americans of Jamaican ancestry. Many Jamaicans are second, third and descend from even older generations, as there have been Jamaicans in the U.S. as early as the early twentieth Century. The regional composition is as follows: 59 percent live in the Northeast, mainly in the State of New York; 4.8 percent in the Midwest; 30.6 percent in the South, particularly South Florida; and 5.6 percent on the West. The New York metropolitan area and South Florida have the largest number of Jamaican immigrants in the United States. South Florida is home to the highest number of undocumented Jamaicans, whereas most documented immigrants tend to reside in Brooklyn. Jamaicans refer to Miami metropolitan area and Brooklyn colloquially as "Kingston 21" and "Little Jamaica" respectively. Jamaicans in the Miami metropolitan area mostly live in Broward County and Jamaicans in New York City have formed communities in Brooklyn, The Bronx and Queens. Especially Central Brooklyn, particularly East Flatbush, Crown Heights, Brownsville, Flatbush, Flatlands and Canarise and the Northeast Bronx, particularly Wakefield and Williamsbridge neighborhoods holding the largest Jamaican populace.[5] Large communities of Jamaican immigrants have formed in New York City and the whole New York Metro Area, which includes Long Island and much of New Jersey and Connecticut, along with Florida (centered in and around the Miami/Broward County, Orlando and Tampa areas), which has the second largest Jamaican community in the U.S. In recent years, many Jamaicans have left New York City for its suburbs, and large Jamaican communities have also formed in many other major cities like Philadelphia (including Delaware and other parts of eastern Pennsylvania), Baltimore, Washington D.C./Central Maryland, Atlanta, Boston, Western NY State (Buffalo and Rochester) and Cleveland. Smaller numbers are in Charlotte, Houston, Chicago and Los Angeles.

General Demographics

The median age for Jamaican immigrants is 49 years old, which is significantly higher than the general immigrant median age. According to the Migration Policy Institute's tabulation of census data, 6% of Caribbean immigrants are under the age of 18, 75% are between the ages of 18 and 64, and 19% are 65 and older.[6] 24% of Jamaican immigrants have a bachelor's degree (compared to 29% in the general immigrant population). 76% of Jamaican immigrants are working age (18 to 64). An estimated 30% of Caribbean immigrants are in the service occupations, 21% are in sales and office positions, and 25% are in management, business, science, and arts occupations and only 9% of Jamaican immigrants are in construction and maintenance jobs.[6] Jamaicans specifically, 32-37% seek management, business, science, and arts positions. The median Jamaican immigrant yearly income is $51,000 with a 13% poverty rate. The median Jamaican immigrant income is higher than the average Caribbean immigrant income, which is about $41,000 with a 20% poverty rate (and Dominican immigrants income is as low as $32,000 with a 24% poverty rate) (U.S. Census Bureau 2014). According to World Bank data, in 2014, the Caribbean as a whole was sent $9.7 billion, 8% of the US GDP as remittances, not including Cuba, which is estimated to send $1.8 billion.[citation needed]

U.S. states with large Jamaican populations

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there were 965,355 Jamaican Americans.[7] [8]

The 10 U.S. states with the largest Jamaican populations in 2019 are:

  1. New York – 307,464
  2. Florida – 304,617
  3. Georgia – 67,818
  4. New Jersey – 67,143
  5. Connecticut – 56,248
  6. Maryland – 40,534
  7. Pennsylvania – 39,518
  8. Texas – 38,763
  9. Massachusetts – 36,333
  10. California – 36,092

U.S. metropolitan areas with largest Jamaican populations

The top 10 U.S. metropolitan areas with the largest populations of Jamaicans (Source: 2019 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates)[9][10]

  1. New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA-CT MSA – 332,681
  2. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL MSA – 173,277
  3. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA MSA – 59,097
  4. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL MSA – 42,922
  5. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV MSA – 39,253
  6. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD MSA – 32,934
  7. Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown, CT MSA – 29,530
  8. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH MSA – 21,510
  9. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL MSA – 18,546
  10. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT MSA – 16,822

U.S. communities with high percentages of people of Jamaican ancestry

The top 25 U.S. communities with the highest percentage of people claiming Jamaican ancestry are:[11]

  1. Blue Hills, Connecticut (neighborhood) 23.9%
  2. Lauderdale Lakes, Florida 18.8%
  3. Lauderhill, Florida 17.6%
  4. South Floral Park, New York 15.5%
  5. Miramar, Florida 15.40%
  6. Bloomfield, Connecticut and Mount Vernon, New York 12.9%
  7. Lakeview, New York 12.7%
  8. North Lauderdale, Florida 11.1%
  9. Uniondale, New York 11.0%
  10. El Portal, Florida 8.5%
  11. Roosevelt, New York 8.2%
  12. Pembroke Park, Florida 8.0%
  13. North Valley Stream, New York and Hartford, Connecticut 7.90%
  14. Sunrise, Florida 7.60%
  15. Miami Gardens, Florida 6.3%
  16. North Amityville, New York 6.1%
  17. South Miami Heights, Florida 6.0%
  18. Hempstead, New York and Elmont, New York 5.9%
  19. Lake Park, Florida and Carol City, Florida 5.8%
  20. East Orange, New Jersey, Gordon Heights, New York, Ives Estates, Florida and Golden Glades, Florida 5.7%
  21. North Miami Beach, Florida 5.5%
  22. New Cassel, New York 5.30%
  23. Bronx, New York and Chillum, Maryland 5.2%
  24. Pembroke Pines, Florida and Wheatley Heights, New York 5.1%
  25. Bridgeport, Connecticut and Windsor, Connecticut 4.5%
  26. Orange, New Jersey and South Bay, Florida 4.3%
  27. Spring Valley, New York 4.2%
  28. Goulds, Florida, Tamarac, Florida and Royal Palm Beach, Florida 4.1%
  29. New Carrollton, Maryland, Plantation, Florida and Cottage City, Maryland 4%
  30. Mangonia Park, Florida, Redan, Georgia and Somerset, New Jersey 3.9%
  31. Brooklyn, New York, Naranja, Florida and Stone Mountain, Georgia 3.8%
  32. Mount Rainier, Maryland, Adelphi, Maryland, Pine Hills, Florida, Baldwin, New York and Poinciana, Florida 3.7%
  33. Westbury, New York and Inwood, New York 3.6%
  34. Paterson, New Jersey and Brentwood, Maryland 3.5%
  35. Teaneck, New Jersey 3.4%
  36. North Miami, Florida and Plainfield, New Jersey 3.3%
  37. Richmond West, Florida 3.2%
  38. Haverhill, Florida 3.1%
  39. Opa-Locka, Florida and Margate, Florida 3%

U.S. communities with the most residents born in Jamaica

Top 50 U.S. communities with the most residents born in Jamaica are:[12]

  1. Sunrise, FL 19.6%
  2. Norland, FL 18.5%
  3. Blue Hills, CT 18.3%
  4. Lauderdale Lakes, FL 16.9%
  5. Andover, FL 15.0%
  6. Lauderhill, FL 14.8%
  7. Utopia, FL 13.1%
  8. Palmetto Estates, FL 12.6%
  9. Miramar, FL 12.5%
  10. Scott Lake, FL 12.3%
  11. South Floral Park, NY 12.1%
  12. Mount Vernon, NY 11.2%
  13. Bloomfield, CT 11.1%
  14. North Lauderdale, FL 9.7%
  15. Fort Devens, MA 9.3%
  16. Northwest Dade, FL 8.5%
  17. Uniondale, NY 8.2%
  18. St. George, FL 8.1%
  19. East Garden City, NY 7.7%
  20. El Portal, FL 7.5%
  21. Silver Springs Shores, FL 7.5%
  22. Washington Park, FL 7.2%
  23. North Valley Stream, NY 6.7%
  24. Sunrise, FL 6.6%
  25. Harlem, FL 6.4%
  26. Lakeview, NY 6.2%
  27. Opa-locka North, FL 6.1%
  28. Hartford, CT 6.0%
  29. Roosevelt, NY 5.9%
  30. Westview, FL 5.7%
  31. Tangelo Park, FL 5.5%
  32. Miami Gardens, Broward County, FL 5.5%
  33. Pembroke Park, FL 5.3%
  34. Lake Park, FL 5.2%
  35. Ives Estates, FL 5.1%
  36. North Amityville, NY 5.1%
  37. Canal Point, FL 5.1%
  38. Rock Island, FL 5.1%
  39. Boulevard Gardens, FL 5.0%
  40. North Miami Beach, FL 5.0%
  41. Lake Lucerne, FL 4.9%
  42. Golden Glades, FL 4.9%
  43. Broadview-Pompano Park, FL 4.8%
  44. Carol City, FL 4.7%
  45. East Orange, NJ 4.7%
  46. Pembroke Pines, FL 4.4%
  47. Stacy Street, FL 4.3%
  48. Mangonia Park, FL 4.3%
  49. Three Lakes, FL 4.2%
  50. Elmont, NY 4.2%



Pete Rock performing at Rahzel and Friends - Brooklyn Bowl, 2016.
Pete Rock performing at Rahzel and Friends - Brooklyn Bowl, 2016.
Harry Belafonte in John Murray Anderson's Almanac on Broadway, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1954
Harry Belafonte in John Murray Anderson's Almanac on Broadway, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1954

Many cultural events in Jamaica are also observed by Jamaican Americans in local public celebrations or in the privacy of their homes.

Many Jamaican Americans have also been very influential and successful in rap music. Famous rappers and DJ's such as DJ Kool Herc, Busta Rhymes, The Notorious B.I.G., Pete Rock, Canibus, Heavy D, Joey Bada$$, Slick Rick, Queen Latifah and Bushwick Bill are all of Jamaican heritage.

Dances and songs

Jamaica's most popular musical forms are reggae and dancehall. There are also others such as "dub poetry" or chanted verses, Ska and Rocksteady, with its emotionally charged, celebrative beat. Jamaican Americans also listen to a great variety of other music such as: jazz, calypso, soca, ska, rap, classical music, gospel and "high-church" choirs.


Notable Jamaican-American actors include Jada Pinkett Smith, Kerry Washington and Sheryl Lee Ralph.


A plate of Jerk chicken.
A plate of Jerk chicken.

In Miami and Brooklyn, especially in the neighborhood of Flatbush along Flatbush, Nostrand, Utica and Church Avenues, one sees groceries filled with a variety of Caribbean cuisines, including sugar cane, jelly, coconut and yams.

Traditional costumes

In New York City, Jamaican Americans participate in the Caribbean Labor day parade in Brooklyn annually and dress in lavish and colorful costumes during the Brooklyn celebration along Eastern Parkway.


A number of Jamaican Americans have excelled in international competition and carried home many trophies. Donald Quarrie won the 200 and the 4 × 100 meters relay Olympic Gold Medal. Merlene Ottey won the 200 and the 4 × 100 meters relay. George Headley, who was born in Panama in 1909, transported to Cuba, grew up in Jamaica. and lived in the United States. Sanya Richards-Ross won gold in the 400 metres after finishing third at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Richards-Ross has also won Olympic gold in the 4×400 meters relay at the 2004 Summer Olympics, the 2008 Summer Olympics, and the 2012 Summer Olympics. She was the best 400m runner in the world for a decade, ranking No. 1 in the world from 2005-2009 and again in 2012.

Several Jamaican-Americans, including Jeff Cunningham, Robin Fraser, and Mark Chung have played for the United States national soccer team.

There have also been many Jamaican-American NBA players including Patrick Ewing, Ben Gordon, Andre Drummond, Roy Hibbert, Andrew Kennedy, and Omari Johnson.

Notable Jamaican-American NFL football players includes Patrick Chung, Atari Bigby, Nevin Lawson, Orlando Franklin, Kenrick Ellis, Ryan McBean and Laken Tomlinson.

There are also several Jamaican-American world-renowned boxers including boxing greats Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather Jr.


Renowned Jamaican-Americans from this group include former Secretary of State and four star general Colin Powell, former National Security adviser Susan Rice, "Mother of the Pell Grant" Lois Rice, former Governor of New York David Paterson, lieutenant governor of Virginia Winsome Sears and Vice-President Kamala Harris.

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ "Table B04006 - PEOPLE REPORTING ANCESTRY- American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. 2019. Retrieved 6 September 2021.
  2. ^ N. Samuel Murell, "Jamaican Americans." in Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, edited by Thomas Riggs, (3rd ed., vol. 2, Gale, 2014), pp. 523-536. Online
  3. ^ Jones, Terry-Ann. Jamaican Immigrants in the United States and Canada: Race, Transnationalism, and Social Capital. New York, NY: LFB Scholarly Piblishing LLC, 2008. 2–3; 160–3. Print.
  4. ^ Immigrant America, p. 69
  5. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-01-03. Retrieved 2015-01-03.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ a b MPI tabulation of data from the U.S. Census American Community Survey from 2014
  7. ^ Bureau, U.S. Census. "American FactFinder - Results". Archived from the original on 2015-01-18. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  8. ^ U.S. Census Bureau (2019). People Reporting Ancestry American Community Survey 1-year estimates. Retrieved from <>
  9. ^ "American FactFinder - Results". Archived from the original on 2015-12-01. Retrieved 2018-06-05.
  10. ^ U.S. Census Bureau (2019). People Reporting Ancestry American Community Survey 1-year estimates. Retrieved from <,31000US47900,31000US36740,33000US148,33000US548,31000US37980,31000US12060#column%7CB04006102,sumlev%7C310
  11. ^ "Ancestry Map of Jamaican Communities". Archived from the original on 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2008-08-03.
  12. ^ "Top 101 cities with the most residents born in Jamaica (population 500+)". Retrieved 2008-08-03.

Further reading

  • Bishop, Jacqueline. My mother who is me: life stories from Jamaican women in New York (Africa World Press, 2006).
  • Ferguson, Gail M., and Marc H. Bornstein. "Remote acculturation: The 'Americanization' of Jamaican islanders." International Journal of Behavioral Development 36.3 (2012): 167-177. Online
  • Horst, Heather A., and Andrew Garner. Jamaican Americans (Chelsea House, 2007).
  • Kasinitz, Philip, Juan Battle, and Ines Miyares. "Fade to black." in Ethnicities: Children of immigrant America ed by Rubén G. Rumbaut and Alejandro Portes. (2001): 267-300.
  • Murell, N. Samuel. "Jamaican Americans." in Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, edited by Thomas Riggs, (3rd ed., vol. 2, Gale, 2014), pp. 523-536. Online

This page was last edited on 17 January 2022, at 22:11
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