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Home > Modern Studies > International issues > Ethnic minorities in USA

Modern Studies

Ethnic minorities in USA


Social and Economic Issues

There are four main ethnic minority groups in the United States:

  • African Americans
  • Hispanics
  • Native Americans
  • Asians and Pacific islanders

African Americans

The distribution of African Americans in the US was traditionally concentrated in the southern states. However, for a number of years in the latter part of the 20th century, large African American populations have developed in northern cities such as Chicago and New York. The capital, Washington DC, also has a particularly large African American community. In recent years many African Americans have returned to the southern states in a process known as reverse migration. This has been due to increasing unemployment in traditional industries in the north such as steel and car manufacturing and also to economic regeneration in the south.

Around 60% of African Americans live in inner-city ghettos. However, more recently, financially successful African Americans have started to buy properties in up-market 'gilded ghettos'.


Spanish speaking immigrants are the most numerous and rapidly increasing non-white group in the US. They include many illegal immigrants who are easily exploited as they do not have the same rights as US citizens.

Hispanics are mainly concentrated in the south and south western states, due to their proximity to Central America. The Cuban community is heavily concentrated in Florida, especially in Miami, as this is where most first arrive in the US.

93% of the Hispanic population in the United States live in urban areas though some find agricultural work on farms in states like California. Puerto Rico, in Central America, has a special status as a territory of the US and traditionally immigrants have moved from there to New York and New Jersey, attracted by job opportunities in these cities.

Native Americans

The original Americans are now a tiny minority within their own country. Small numbers of Native Americans have moved into cities such as New York to escape the limited opportunities in their traditional homelands. However many live in, or near, reservations in the western states of Oklahoma, Arizona, California and Alaska.

Asians and Pacific Islanders

The main factors that attract most Asians to the US are refuge from persecution at home and an opportunity to succeed economically. Nearly half of Asians and Pacific Islanders live in California, the nearest entry point in the US. California has a wide range of job opportunities.

Some groups such as the Chinese and Koreans concentrate in the major cities. They have been successful in providing retail services and supplies. Japanese Americans have been the most economically successful group in the US and have the highest average incomes in the country. Many other Asians have also succeeded. For example, there are many middle class Asians from the Indian sub-continent working in the medical profession.

A mixed race group of colleagues celebrating together.


teenage african-american boy

Class Clips

The USA: impact of education on crime and poverty among African Americans


Two African-American in church

Class Clips

The role of churches in the African-American community

Watch the following clips to learn more about ethic minorities in the USA:

African Americans campaign for equal voting rights 1964

Hispanic immigrants in the USA

What impact did the 1960s campaign for equal voting rights have in Alabama?

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