Income of New York's Dominican Immigrants

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Dominican Income


The Dominican -American economic picture has been pretty dismal over the years, but it has been improving steadily. Many first generation immigrants, hailed from the rural island countryside, with little or no education, thus inhibiting their choice of jobs. Of course, a great many professionals also immigrated to the US. At any rate, second-generation Dominicans generally have far higher incomes than their first-generation counterparts. This is partially due to the fact that, not only are many better educated, but they have roots in their new country – family and friends to provide assistance, and greater familiarity with their environment.

The average annual per-capita income of a Dominican household was $11, 065 in 1999, slightly lower than that for the average Hispanic family, and roughly half of the national average. However, the incomes also vary with state. Looking at states with relatively large Dominican populations, Florida and Rhode Island both stood out. Dominicans in Florida had the highest average per-capita income, $12,886, while those in Rhode Island had the lowest, $8,560.


If we zoom in on New York, the state with the highest Dominican concentration, the poverty rate is greater than all other “major and racial ethnic groups” in the entire state – 32%. (It might be helpful to note that the overall poverty rate in NYC is only 19.1%, and 29.7% for the Hispanic Population.)

And why is this you ask? The large number of female-headed single-parent families within the community seems to contribute to this situation. 38.2% of all New York Dominicans lived in this type of family in 2000, as opposed to the City average of 22.1%. Generally, families where only one spouse is present, are poorer than those with two, simply because there is only one person working in the household, rather than two. About half of all Dominican female-headed families were poor, twice the poverty rate of any other such household. As a result, many are forced to utilize unemployment compensation or food stamps.

It’s been speculated that changing family dynamics and gender roles have contributed to the number of single parent families. Coming from a patriarchal society, many women spoke little English and no job skills. Thus, when men, tired of the constant economic pressure, gave up and abandoned their partners, whole families were left destitute. The lack of formal marriages among Dominican couples probably made it even easier to leave. Whatever the case, during 1990, only immigrants from countries within the former Soviet Union received more public assistance than Dominicans.

Viewed in these terms, the situation does look a little bleak. However, this cloud has a silver lining. Dominicans also experienced one of the greatest economic growths, the average per-capita income rising by almost 16% during the 90’s, (compared with the overall increase of 9.2% in the city). This increase eclipsed that of the African-American, and Hispanic populations, both communities with historically low wages. With the emphasis placed on education, and income, within the Dominican community, the average income will likely continue to improve.