The number of Black people living in the United States reached a new high of 47.2 million in 2021, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data. This group is diverse, with a growing number and share born outside the U.S. and an increasing number saying they are of two or more races. And while the South continues to see growth in its number of Black residents, the Black population is growing in other regions of the country, too.
For Black History Month, here are key facts about the nation’s Black population. In this analysis, the Black population is made up of three main groups: single-race, non-Hispanic Black people; non-Hispanic, multiracial Black people; and Black Hispanics. You can also read our newly updated fact sheet about Black Americans in 2021.
The analysis presented in this post and the accompanying fact sheet is based on Pew Research Center tabulations of microdata from the Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey, provided through the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) from the University of Minnesota. The analysis identifies the nation’s Black population through self-reports of racial and ethnic identity on the 2021 ACS. The Black population includes single-race non-Hispanic Black people, multiracial non-Hispanic Black people and those who say they are Black and Hispanic.
The analysis in this post relies on respondent self-identification of race and ethnicity in the Census Bureau data sources such as the 2021 American Community Survey (ACS) to identify the nation’s Black population. The racial and ethnic categories used in census data have changed over time – including question wording, format and instructions – and may affect how people identify by race and ethnicity. See “What Census Calls Us” for more details on how U.S. racial and ethnic categories have changed since 1790. Moreover, respondents’ perceptions of the questions and their own racial and ethnic identity can change in response to individual circumstances and the way the nation sees race and itself. Starting in 2000, Americans could select more than once racial category in census forms. Before that, many multiracial people were counted in only one racial category.
U.S. Black population or total Black population refers to the population of Americans who self-identify as Black in the United States. This includes those who say their race is only Black and that they are not Hispanic; those who say Black is one of two or more races in their identity and are not Hispanic; and those who say they are Hispanic or Latino and either Black alone or in combination with other races. The terms Black population and Black people are used interchangeably.
The terms single-race, non-Hispanic Black and Black alone, non-Hispanic are used interchangeably to refer to the same population. This population is made up of individuals who self-identify only as Black and do not identify as Hispanic or Latino.
The term multiracial, non-Hispanic Black is used to refer to people who self-identify as two or more races and do not identify as Hispanic or Latino.
The term Black Hispanic is used to refer to those who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino and as Black, either alone or in combination with other races. This group is not the same as the nation’s Afro-Latino population as not all Black Hispanics identify as Afro-Latino and not all Afro-Latinos identify as Black or Hispanic.
The Black population in the U.S. has grown by 30% since 2000, rising from 36.2 million then to 47.2 million in 2021. Notably, the number of people self-identifying as another race in addition to Black has increased nearly 240% since 2000, reflecting a broader national shift in the number of Americans identifying as multiracial as well as changes to how the U.S. Census Bureau asks about race and ethnicity. The number of Black Americans who say they are Hispanic has also risen sharply over this period, up 185% since 2000.
The arrival of new immigrants from Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere has been an important contributor to Black population growth. In 2021, there were 4.8 million foreign-born Black Americans, up from 2.4 million in 2000, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data. Immigrants accounted for about 10% of the Black population in 2021, up from 7% in 2000.
More than half of the nation’s Black population (56%) lived in Southern states in 2021, up from a historic low of 52% in 1970. However, the share of Black Americans who live in the South varies by racial and ethnic background. Among those who are Black alone and not Hispanic, roughly six-in-ten (59%) live in the South. By comparison, only 42% of multiracial, non-Hispanic Black people and 35% of Black Hispanics live in the South.
With 4 million Black residents, Texas is the state with the largest Black population. Following Texas is Florida, with 3.8 million, and Georgia, with 3.6 million.
New York has more Black residents than any other metropolitan area. Nearly 4 million Black Americans live in the New York metro area. Other metro areas with large Black populations include Atlanta (2.2 million), Washington, D.C. (1.8 million) and Chicago (1.7 million).
As a share of the population, the Atlanta area is home to a higher percentage of Black people than any other metro area with at least 1 million Black residents. Nearly four-in-ten residents of the Atlanta metro area (37%) are Black, followed by 28% in the Washington metro area, 24% in the Detroit metro area, and 23% each in the Philadelphia and Miami metro areas.
The Black population of the U.S. is relatively young. In 2021, the median age of Black Americans was 33 years, meaning half of the nation’s Black population was younger than that age and half was older. By comparison, the nation’s overall median age was 38 in 2021.
Among Black Americans, median age varies considerably by race and ethnicity: Single-race, non-Hispanic Black Americans had a median age of 35 in 2021, compared with only 22 among Black Hispanics and 20 among multiracial, non-Hispanic Black Americans.
Educational attainment among Black Americans is on the rise. In 2021, 26% of Black adults ages 25 and older – 7.5 million people – had earned a bachelor’s degree or more, up from 15% in 2000.
Growing shares of Black women and Black men have earned a bachelor’s degree or more over the last two decades. However, Black women have seen a larger gain than Black men, leading to a widening gender gap in educational attainment. In 2021, 29% of Black women ages 25 and older had earned at least a bachelor’s degree, up from 16% in 2000. Among Black men of the same age, 22% had earned at least a bachelor’s degree in 2021, up from 13% in 2000.