Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Frederick Lynch

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© 2017 Ellis M Simani


This paper examines the causes for socioeconomic variation between African Americans and West Indians in the United States, focusing primarily on New York City. Nearly 2 million African Americans live in New York, 30 percent of whom are black immigrants, and likely another 15 percent that are the children of these foreign-born individuals. I provide an overview of the socioeconomic positions of both groups, focusing especially on residential patterns, labor market participation, and educational attainment. I then compare leading theories used to explain West Indian success, arguing that selective United States immigration practices account for most variation both between the two groups and also within the West Indian immigrant population itself. The success of many black immigrants, including West Indians, is attributed to their motivation and ability to leave their home country and pursue opportunities abroad, rather than by virtue of being born of their individual culture. Selective immigration practices have privileged many West Indians who’ve settled in the country, especially in regard to educational attainment. Critiquing current affirmative action programs, I offer policy suggestions to ensure restitution for African Americans who remain persistently disadvantaged by the legacies of slavery.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.