February 22, 2018

5 facts about blacks in the U.S.

Angel C. Dye (left) celebrates her graduation from Howard University in Washington, D.C., with her friend Renee Walter on May 13, 2017. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Angel C. Dye (left) celebrates her graduation from Howard University in Washington, D.C., with her friend Renee Walter on May 13, 2017. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

More than 40 million blacks live in the United States, making up around 13% of the nation’s population, according to 2016 Census Bureau estimatesHere are five facts about the U.S. black population today, drawn from Pew Research Center studies in the past year.

1A growing share of blacks are completing high school and college. For the first time in U.S. history, 90% of Americans ages 25 and older have completed high school, according to the U.S. Census Bureau – and the share of blacks who have done so is also at the highest level on record. In 2017, 87% of blacks ages 25 and older had a high school diploma or equivalent. Although the high school completion rate for non-Hispanic whites was higher (94%) than for blacks, the gap has been gradually shrinking. In 1993, the high school completion gap was twice as large (14 percentage points) as it is today (7 points). The share of blacks ages 25 and older who have completed four years of college or more has also roughly doubled during that span, from 12% in 1993 to 24% in 2017.

2The black immigrant population has increased fivefold since 1980. Immigrants are making up a growing number of the overall U.S. population – but the black immigrant population is growing twice as fast. There were 4.2 million black immigrants living in the U.S. in 2016, up from 816,000 in 1980, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data. Since 2000 alone, the number of black immigrants in the U.S. has risen 71%.

Much of the recent growth in the black immigrant population has been fueled by African migration. Africans made up 39% of the overall black immigrant population in 2016, up from 24% in 2000. Still, about half of all foreign-born blacks (49%) living in the U.S. in 2016 were from the Caribbean.

3Black households have only 10 cents in wealth for every dollar held by white households. In 2016, the median wealth of non-Hispanic white households was $171,000. That’s 10 times the wealth of black households ($17,100) – a larger gap than in 2007. The Great Recession of 2007-2009 triggered a stark decline in wealth for U.S. families and further widened the already large wealth gap between white and black households. Yet the black-to-white wealth gap has evolved differently for families at different income levels, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Federal Reserve data. The wealth gap increased between middle-income black and white families, but shrank between lower-income black and white families from 2007 to 2016. Much of the reduction in the wealth gap among lower-income families was driven by a sharp decrease in wealth for whites.

4There has been a steady increase in the share of Americans who view racism as a big problem in the U.S. – especially among African Americans. Since 2009, the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency, the share of those who consider racism a big problem has grown among all racial groups. This is especially true for black Americans. In 2017, about eight-in-ten blacks (81%) said racism is a big problem in society today, up from 44% eight years prior. By comparison, about half of whites (52%) said racism is a big problem in our society, up from 22% in 2009. There were also partisan divides on this question, which have grown from 2015.

5An overwhelming majority of blacks (92%) say whites benefit at least a fair amount from advantages that blacks do not have. This includes nearly seven-in-ten blacks (68%) who say whites benefit a great deal. By comparison, 46% of whites say whites benefit at least a fair amount from advantages in society that blacks don’t have, with just 16% saying whites benefit a great deal. As with views on racism in the U.S., there are wide partisan divides on this question. In addition, those who do not think white people benefit from societal advantages are more likely to say they approve of President Donald Trump’s job performance, while those who think whites greatly benefit from these advantages are nearly unanimous in their disapproval of Trump.

Topics: African Americans, Race and Ethnicity

  1. Photo of Kristen Bialik

    is a research assistant at Pew Research Center.