With the exception of Cubans, Caribbean immigrants have made New York State and New York City their principal destinations and sites of settlement in the U.S. Florida, especially over the last two decades, has grown increasingly popular among Haitian and Jamaican immigrants, however. Nevertheless, more than half of Barbadian, Guyanese, Haitian, Jamaican, and Trinidadian immigrants have settled in New York, especially Brooklyn and Queens. The proportion is even higher for those from the Dominican Republic: three-quarters of them live in New York City.
The preponderance of females among Caribbean immigrants dates back to 1918. Given the postwar preference for female immigrant workers, especially nurses and domestics, Caribbean women have frequently found it easier to obtain American visas than their male counterparts. In many instances this has strengthened the hand of Caribbean women in the domestic sphere, since they are now in a position to sponsor the immigration of their spouses and children.
The evidence suggests that, at least since 1960, the proportion of professionals among Caribbean immigrants has declined overall. Between 1962 and 1964, 23 percent of Jamaican immigrants were professional and technical workers. By contrast, those who came to the U.S. between 1975 and 1979 had only 14 percent in these categories. It is not surprising because those immigrating as relatives of citizens or permanent residents have increased at a much faster rate than those immigrating under the preference scheme in use for professionals.
Today, there are between 2.6 and 3 million Caribbeans (of all races) in the United States, or 1 percent of the total population. More than 72 percent of Afro-Caribbeans are foreign-born and they represent 4.6 percent of the black population. Entrepreneurs continue to flourish in the community, and the 2000 census shows that the median
household income of Afro-Caribbeans is $40,000. Although it has decreased since 1990 it is still higher than the African-American median household income but is now lower than the African immigrants' income.
From the early days of Caribbean immigration, West Indian music, including soca, calypso, and reggae, has had a profound impact on popular music. Other aspects of Caribbean culture such as food and Carnival have also entered mainstream America.
In the last two decades, Carnival, which started in Harlem in 1950, has become a regional event. The first celebration takes place in Atlanta on Memorial Day weekend, and over the next five months events are held in several cities. The largest one, which takes place in Brooklyn, New York, on Labor Day, draws two or three million revelers and spectators. These spectacular public events, which generate millions of dollars in revenue, are the clearest expression of the development of strong Caribbean communities and a defined Afro-Caribbean identity.
Several socioeconomic indicators confirm that Cubans tend to be more privileged than Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in the United States. For example, Cubans are better educated, wealthier, and more likely to be employed than other Hispanic Caribbean migrants. Of the three groups, Dominicans have the highest rates of unemployment, poverty, and public assistance. Although Puerto Ricans stand between Cubans and Dominicans on most counts, they are closer to Dominicans than Cubans in socioeconomic terms. The major exception to this trend is the relatively high proportion of English-speaking Puerto Ricans, largely due to the predominance of U.S.-born Puerto Ricans. Both Puerto Ricans and Dominicans have very high rates of female-headed households, closely associated with poverty and welfare dependence.
Despite their relative disadvantage in earnings (even Cubans fall below U.S. standards), Hispanic Caribbean migrants play increasing economic roles in their countries of origin. Their impact can be documented most clearly in the large amount of money they send relatives back home. Most of these funds cover basic household needs such as housing, food, clothing, health care, and education. Remittances have also financed small businesses and other productive activities at home. In any case, they constitute a major source of income in the Dominican Republic, as well as in Cuba, and to a lesser extent in Puerto Rico. Moreover, they are the most tangible expression of continuing ties between families on and off the Hispanic Caribbean. One of the most enduring consequences of migration is the growing financial dependence of residents of the region on those living abroad.