Can you guess which U.S. states are home to the most Haitians?
We’ve gathered the top ten list of U.S. states that have attracted Haitian immigrants over the past decade. If you’d like to have some fun, take a moment to pull out a piece of paper and a pen (yes, we’re going old school), and make your top ten guesses! (While creating your list, keep in mind these numbers include only those born in Haiti – not their kids or grandkids…)
Ready? Let’s see how many you got right!
Was this an easy one? Florida is by far home to the most Haitian immigrants, with 280,000 of its residents being born in Haiti. Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach’s counties alone account for over 200,000 of this population – a higher figure than any of the states on the rest of our list can boast. Miami is even known for having its own “Little Haiti”, where colorful buildings, restaurants and markets proudly reflect Haiti’s Caribbean culture.
2. New York
Coming in second, but perhaps not as closely as you might think, is New York. With around half the number of Haitians as Florida, New York checks in at 131,000. The vast majority of these Haitians are living in (you guessed it) New York City. New York, which also has its own Little Haiti, even hosts a Haitian Day Parade in May (which, by the way, is Haitian Heritage month in the United States, celebrated primarily in the northeast, including – spoiler alert! – Boston, Massachusetts).
Well, since we just gave it away…we’ll roll right into #3 on the list, Massachusetts! Massachusetts is home to approximately 46,000 Haitians, with most living in the Boston metropolitan area. Boston has even established a number of social service organizations to serve its Haitian population, including the Association of Haitian Women in Boston, the Haitian Multi-Service Center, the Haitian Health Outreach Project, and a Haitian Mental Health Unit at Cambridge Hospital.
4. New Jersey
Next on our list…New Jersey! New Jersey follows closely behind Massachusetts with a Haitian population of 39,000. This is the last state on our list to have a rather large Haitian community (the rest have 15,000 or less). New Jersey’s Haitian population is still large enough to have made its mark on the state. Particularly in Essex County, you can see the Haitian influence in music shops, grocery stores, restaurants, and even barbershops.
Here’s where our numbers begin to drop significantly, so give yourself a pat on the back if you got the rest of these right! This state has less than half the Haitian population of New Jersey, and a tiny fraction compared to our big #1. Nevertheless, Florida’s northern neighbor comes in at #5 with 15,000 Haitians residing within its borders. As you might expect, our Haitian friends are concentrated in the Atlanta area. However, interestingly enough, Haitians have taken up residence not in Fulton County (home to Atlanta) itself, but have rather spread out fairly evenly to the east, west, and south of Atlanta.
The next three states on our list bring us back up to the northeast, starting with Pennsylvania at 13,000. Philadelphia lacks the concentration of Haitians that exists in New York, but its lower cost of living has begun to draw many of the Haitian immigrants who entered the U.S. through New York.
Connecticut follows closely behind at 12,000. Together with Haitians in nearby New Jersey and New York, Haitians in Connecticut have founded several Haitian Creole-speaking religious institutions, radio and television programs, and after-school programs.
Maryland, just north of the D.C. area, follows Connecticut with a Haitian population of 8,000. Although there don’t seem to be as many Haitians in D.C. as you might think, the Washington-based organization Roots of Development did start a Taste of Haiti event, attended by ambassadors, business leaders, journalists, heads of NGO’s, embassy staff, and of course, Haitians themselves. Wouldn’t you have loved to have been at this Haitian food competition? Yum!
Our only state in the midwest with a significant Haitian population lends all of its credit to Chicago, where the majority of Illinois’s 6,000 Haitian immigrants live. While most Haitians have settled north of the Chicago area, Chicago differs from our northeastern cities in that the Haitians in Chicago are widely dispersed. You won’t find a Little Haiti in Chicago. However, you will find two Haitian-American public officials from Chicago, State Senator Kwame Raoul and Illinois Supreme Court Judge Lionel Jean-Baptiste.
Last but not least, Texas bottoms out with a modest population of 4,000 Haitians. Despite the smaller number of Haitian immigrants, in October of 2011, Austin, Texas established a “Friendship City” relationship with Jacmel, Haiti, based on their shared creative culture.
There you have it, your top ten U.S. states where Haitian immigrants have made their homes. For those of you who had California on your list, give yourselves a bonus point! Although this highly populated, culturally diverse state didn’t make the top ten, it takes a close backseat to Texas with a Haitian population of 3,000.
So now you know…the next time you happen to be in one of these areas, make sure to add “check out Haitian restaurants” to your list, and get a taste for Haitian cuisine while getting to know a few of your Haitian neighbors!
Are you from one of these states? Not from one of these states, but have a heart for Haiti? Make sure to check out www.restavekfreedom.org and learn more about our work in Haiti and how you can get involved!