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The top draw in the U.S. for blacks is Broward

Census figures show Broward leads the nation in attracting black residents. The growth is driven by Caribbean immigrants.

Broward County attracted more new black residents than any other county in the United States between July 2004 and July 2005, according to Census figures released today.

The continued surge in black residents is being driven by immigrants from the Caribbean, some of whom move to Broward after short stops in Miami-Dade, say demographers. After getting established, they look north for better job prospects and quality of life in Broward.

Zandra Levy moved from Miami-Dade in June for a new job as a counselor at the Urban League of Broward County. She left her tiny one-bedroom apartment in North Miami seeking more space, cheaper rent, and a cultural vibe that reminded her of her native Jamaica. Found in central Plantation: a two-bedroom apartment that fit the bill all around.

''There are a lot of Caribbean events like concerts . . . and it has a more homey environment than Dade,'' said Levy, 25.


Broward added 16,522 new black residents in the 12 months ending July 31, 2005. Gwinnett County, Ga., in the Atlanta metro area, came in second with 13,854, according to population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Miami-Dade's black population increased by just 1,583 people, or less than 1 percent.

Broward also leads the nation in the number of new black residents added between 2000 and 2005. The five-year total is 92,378. Again, Gwinnett comes in second with 62,732. The five-year figure for Miami-Dade is 10,528.

Overall, in 2005 Miami-Dade's black population was about 500,000, compared to 1.4 million Hispanic and 450,000 white non-Hispanics. In Broward, there were 450,000 black residents, 400,000 Hispanics and 900,000 white non-Hispanics.

As Broward County's Hispanic population continues to swell, growing faster than any other segment, Broward inches closer to becoming a ''minority majority'' county where Hispanic and black residents outnumber white non-Hispanic residents. Miami-Dade passed that milestone in the late 1970s.

Broward's percentage of blacks stood at 15 percent in the 1990 census. It climbed to 20.5 percent in 2000. Today, estimates place the black population at 26 percent.

The Census Bureau arrived at the figures released today using a method that uses past demographic trends and patterns to estimate population. A more detailed look at local demographics is due Aug. 15, when the Census' American Community Survey offers its annual report on population. Those figures will show the ethnic breakdown of black and Hispanic increases.

''The majority of the new blacks in Broward are West Indian -- including Haitians, Jamaicans, Trinidadians and Bahamians,'' said Jerry Kolo, a professor of urban planning at Florida Atlantic University in Fort Lauderdale.

''South Florida is the first port of call for most newly arriving West Indians,'' Kolo said. ``This is where they have their relatives and next of kin, who have come before them. The weather here is similar to the weather they left behind at home. There is also proximity to their home countries, which makes going back to visit less expensive.''

Once immigrants settle in South Florida, Broward is increasingly becoming the county of choice, Kolo said.

''Miami-Dade still tends to be mainly the command post for Hispanics, particularly Cubans,'' Kolo said. ``For West Indians, the quality of life in Broward and the opportunity for upward mobility tend to be higher. They tend to have more prospects for employment in Broward, more cultural opportunities and they are more politically relevant here than in most other parts of the country.''


Some West Indian immigrants say they are skipping Miami-Dade completely.

Monique Kanzki and her husband left a hillside suburb of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in late 2002 amid a climate of deepening insecurity. They landed in Broward.

Kanzki knew Miami-Dade because she had visited her daughters there. She found Broward more attractive because of its parks, suburban feel and its multicultural makeup. ''Coming from the Caribbean it was easier for me to integrate myself,'' said Kanzki, 53, a Realtor and interior designer who lives in Plantation.

Josephine Legros, a Haiti native, relocated to Weston from traffic-heavy Kendall in 2003. Three years later, the single mother of two boys is still effusive about the move. QUALITY OF LIFE

''I feel so good in Broward,'' said Legros, 49 and a Realtor. ``I feel I should've moved here after [Hurricane] Andrew. There's so much space in Broward -- the streets are bigger and there are so many parks.''

Marvin Dunn, a professor of community psychology at Florida International University, predicts the growth of Caribbean blacks in Broward will continue into the future.

''Broward has passed a critical point in the immigration of West Indians,'' he said. ``It started as a small Caribbean enclave, and the enclave has become a magnet. There are enough people with enough money and enough ties to the islands that this enclave is going to expand exponentially.''

Kolo agrees the trend will continue but said economic factors might cause it to slow down. Because these particular Census estimates are based on past trends, they sometimes miss emerging shifts based on economics and other factors.

'The lack of affordable housing and rising taxes are going to become what we call `push factors' -- they are pushing people out of here,'' he said. ``It's possible in the future more West Indian immigrants and African Americans will bypass or leave Broward for points north like St. Lucie County and Central Florida.''

Miami Herald staff writer Darran Simon contributed to this report.
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