, Volume 45, Issue 6, pp 544–548 | Cite as

The Secret of West Indian Success



For nearly a century, black immigrants from the West Indies have enjoyed greater economic success than African Americans. Several explanations have been proposed for this trend, but until now, none of these explanations have been subjected to systematic scrutiny. Recent efforts to adjudicate among them indicate that West Indian success can be attributed entirely to the “selectivity of migration”. This phrase refers to the tendency of people who migrate to be more talented and determined than the compatriots they leave behind. One implication of this discovery is that sympathetic observers should stop exhorting African Americans to behave more like West Indians. Such pleas are inappropriate because West Indian success is a consequence of choosing to move, not a consequence of Caribbean birth. A second implication is that persons of West Indian background remain vulnerable to racism. The new findings provide no evidence that positive selection protects West Indians from the negative stereotypes that Americans associate with black skin.


West Indian immigrants Caribbean immigrants African Americans Selectivity 

Further Reading

  1. Bashi, V. 2007. Survival of the knitted. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Foner, N. 2001. Islands in the city: West Indian migration to New York. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  3. Heron, M. 2001. The occupational attainment of Caribbean immigrants in the United States, Canada and England. New York: LFB Scholarly.Google Scholar
  4. James, W. 1998. Holding aloft the Banner of Ethiopia: Caribbean radicalism in early twentieth century America. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  5. Waters, M. 1999. West Indian dreams and American realities. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

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