During the 19th and 20th centuries, New York was the principal gateway for European immigrants. In the great northern migration that began after World War I, large numbers of blacks also settled there; more recently there has been an influx of Hispanics and Latinos and, to a lesser extent, of Asians. As of 2000, New York had the largest black and 2nd-largest Asian population among the 50 states, and the 2nd-highest percentage of foreign-born residents.
According to the US Bureau of the Census, New York had 82,461 Indians in 2000. In 1996, there were an estimated 16,014 Indians living on or adjacent to the reservations of the following seven tribes: the Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora nations, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, and the Tonawanda Band of Senecas.
Blacks have been in New York since 1624. All black slaves were freed by a state law in 1827. Rochester was a major center of the antislavery movement; Frederick Douglass, a former slave, settled and published his newspaper North Star there, while helping to run the Underground Railroad. After World War I, blacks moving into New York City displaced the Jews, Italians, Germans, and Irish then living in Harlem, which went on to become the cultural capital of black America. The black population of New York State was 3,014,385 as of 2000—15.9% of the state's population. The black population of New York City alone was 2,129,762, larger than the black populations of all but four of the 50 states, and representing 26.6% of all city residents.
The population of Hispanics and Latinos as of 2000 was 2,867,583, or 15% of the state population. Of this total, New York City accounted for roughly 75%. Puerto Ricans in New York state numbered 1,050,293. Cubans, Dominicans, Colombians, Central Americans, and Mexicans are also present in growing numbers, including a large but undetermined number of illegal immigrants.
New York's Asian population is surpassed only by that of California. In 2000 it was estimated at 1,044,976, up from 694,000 in 1990. Pacific Islanders numbered 8,818. In 2000, state residents included 424,774 Chinese, 251,724 Asian Indians (up from 80,430 a decade earlier), 119,846 Koreans, 81,681 Filipinos, 37,279 Japanese, and 23,818 Vietnamese (up from 12,116 in 1990). New York City has the 2nd-largest Chinatown in the US.
In 2000 there were 3,868,133 foreign-born New Yorkers (20.4% of the total state population), a million more than there had been in 1990 (2,851,861, or 15.8%) and more than any other state except California. Among persons who reported at least one specific ancestry group, 2,122,620 named German; 2,737,146 Italian; 2,454,469 Irish; 1,140,036 English; 986,141 Polish; and 460,261 Russian. These figures do not distinguish the large numbers of European Jewish immigrants who would identify themselves as Jews rather than by their country of origin.
The ethnic diversity of the state is reflected in such Manhattan neighborhoods as Harlem, Chinatown, Little Italy, and "Spanish," or East, Harlem, with its large Puerto Rican concentration. Many of the more successful ethnics have moved to the suburbs; on the other hand, new immigrants still tend to form ethnic communities, often in the outer boroughs, such as Asians and South Americans in certain parts of Queens and Russian Jews in south Brooklyn. Outside New York City there are also important ethnic enclaves in the Buffalo metropolitan area, with its large populations of Polish and Italian origin.