Comparative diasporas: Jamaicans in South Florida and Toronto

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


International Studies

First Committee Member

Thomas D. Boswell - Committee Chair


Patterns of emigration have changed over the course of Jamaica's history, and are in many cases related to such factors as the colonial past, as well as contemporary economic ties. Although there are records of early patterns of Jamaican emigration, the process has become increasingly significant. Recently, since the late 1950s, large numbers of Jamaicans have migrated to the United Kingdom, where they held citizenship at that time. When Jamaican independence in 1962 coincided with restrictive changes in British immigration legislation and more accommodating changes in Canadian and American immigration policies in the mid-1960s, these migratory patterns shifted. Migration from Jamaica to North America increased steadily, while migration to the United Kingdom declined, trends that persist today.Migration is a central feature of Jamaica's culture and history. Since the 1960s the two main destination countries for Jamaican emigrants have been the United States and Canada. Within these two countries Jamaicans, like other immigrants, tend to be concentrated in metropolitan areas, particularly those with established Jamaican communities. Among these cities with sizable Jamaican populations are Miami and Toronto, as well as the surrounding areas of both cities.This dissertation compares the socioeconomic status of Jamaicans in South Florida and Toronto, and explores some of the reasons for the differences between these two Jamaican populations, focusing on the differences between the contexts of reception. Two main aspects of the South Floridian and Torontonian contexts are explored: the racial and ethnic composition and the structural factors of the receiving society such as labor market and immigration policies. It was concluded that, while the differences between Jamaicans in South Florida and Toronto are slight, Jamaicans in South Florida have higher levels of education and higher income than those in Toronto. The presence of a large, native-born black population in South Florida in contrast to the smaller native-born black population in Toronto partially explains the relative success of Jamaicans in South Florida. Another difference between the two populations is that Jamaicans in South Florida have greater transnational connections to Jamaica, a factor that is attributed to the closer geographic proximity of South Florida to Jamaica.


Geography; Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

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