Study Finds That Nearly Half of Black Students in the Ivy League Are Recent Immigrants

In a 2004 forum at Princeton University, Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard, stated his belief that 75 percent of the black students at Harvard were of African or Caribbean descent or of mixed race. According to Professor Gates, more than two thirds of all Harvard’s black students were either the children or grandchildren of West Indians or Africans and very few of Harvard’s black students were the descendants of American slaves.

Now an article published in the American Journal of Education provides evidence to support Professor Gates’ claim. Researchers at Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania find that 40 percent of all black students at the eight Ivy League colleges had at least one parent who was born outside the United States. About 13 percent of the entire black population of the United States are recent immigrants. Therefore, the number of black students of immigrant origin at Ivy League schools is more than triple the level of recent immigrants in the U.S. population of blacks.

The study found that black immigrant students at Ivy League colleges were far more likely than their African-American peers to have had a father who is a college graduate. Thus black immigrants were more likely than native African Americans to come from families with higher incomes. They were also more likely to have attended private school. Another finding was that once in college, black immigrants and African Americans performed equally well academically.

The authors conclude, “We cannot answer the question of whether the children of black immigrants are worthy beneficiaries of affirmative action, for that answer rests largely on a moral judgment.”