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26215: Hermantin(News)Miramar is home to wealthiest Haitian community in S. Florida (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
By Alva James-Johnson
September 9, 2005
Miramar is home to wealthiest Haitian community in S. Florida
Pradel Vilme wanted to raise his children in a quiet suburban neighborhood with
all the trimmings of middle-class American life.
So in 2001, the real estate agent moved his family from Miami to western
Miramar and from a three-bedroom to a five-bedroom house.
"You have to upgrade yourself," said the 54-year-old Haitian-American, who has
lived in South Florida since 1985. "In America, people transplant from place to
place until they're retired. They're always looking for something better."
Now, thanks to Vilme and others like him, Miramar is home to the wealthiest
Haitian community in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, according to a study
released last week by the Brookings Institution, a public policy think tank in
The study, based on the 2000 Census, was initiated by Sant La Haitian
Neighborhood Center in Miami as a supplement to another Brookings report called
"Growing the Middle Class: Connecting All of Miami-Dade Residents to Economic
Among cities with large Haitian populations in the two-county area, the study
found that Haitians in Miramar had the highest median household income, with
$43,138. North Miami Beach had the second-highest, with $30,068. Lauderdale
Lakes was third, with $30,059, and Haitians in Miami had the lowest median
household income, with $20,000.
Gepsie Metellus, executive director of Sant La, said many are attracted to
Miramar's newer homes, schools and suburban environment.
"People want to have an excellent quality of life, and wherever they can afford
it, they will go," she said.
The report highlighted the Haitian community's struggle to rise. It found that
Haitians in Miami-Dade had the lowest median household incomes, the
lowest-paying jobs and the highest rate of adults without a high school
education among all ethnic groups.
Yet it documented the progress many Haitians have made since the 1970s, as many
of them acquired wealth and moved from Little Haiti and other Miami
neighborhoods to Broward. The study found that Haitians in Broward, numbering
62,342, had a median household income of $31,041. In Miami-Dade, with a Haitian
population of 95,669, the figure was $27,284.
In the report, researchers said getting an accurate count of the Haitian
population was impossible because the census undercounted minority and
immigrant groups. Still, they said, the statistics reveal important trends.
"Miami-Dade struggles with the fact that it's a huge entry point for
immigrants, but when these new immigrants and their families move up and become
middle class, they leave," said Rebecca Sohmer, a research analyst with the
metropolitan policy program at Brookings. "Miami-Dade's loss is Broward
Alex Stepick, director of the Immigration and Ethnicity Institute at Florida
International University, said the migration of Haitians and people from the
English-speaking Caribbean to western Broward began 15 years ago. In addition
to those moving from Miami, many Caribbean-Americans are migrating from New
York and elsewhere in the Northeast.
"In the year 2000, the state of Florida had more Haitians and English-speaking
West Indians than the state of New York," he said, "and much of that was
because of the rapid growth in western Broward, which tends to be middle
It's what sociologists call chain migration, he said. "Somebody gets there,
then people they know follow them, and the chain exponentially grows."
Miramar Mayor Lori C. Moseley said she has noticed the growth of the Haitian
middle class in her city.
"Miramar is an incredible, culturally diverse community where everyone is
welcome and everyone feels welcomed here," she said. "We have a population
that's a little bit of this and little bit of that, and we try to celebrate
Now Vilme, his wife, and three children, ages 10, 16, and 17, call it home.
Vilme said he fled Haiti in 1985 to escape the Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier
regime. Vilme settled in Miami and earned a bachelor's degree in business
administration from Florida International University. After starting his own
real estate and mortgage company, he decided it was time to move.
Now he has a program on Haitian radio station WJCC, AM-1700, in which he
educates other Haitians about how to adjust to their new environment.
He encourages them to participate in their neighborhood associations so they
can help make the rules.
"We're at the early stages of Haitians moving into these communities," he said.
"It's an adjustment because every culture is different."
Alva James-Johnson can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4523.
South Florida Statistics
Haitian Median Household Incomes and Populations in Cities With Large Haitian
CityIncomePop.Miramar$43,138 4,359North Miami Beach $30,068 7,864Lauderdale
Lakes $30,059 4,732Golden Glades $27,500 10,284Pompano Beach $26,458
4,718Lauderhill$26,449 5,034North Miami $26,045 18,656Pinewood$23,901 4,315Fort
Lauderdale $23,691 10,869Miami $20,000 18,309SOURCE: The Haitian Community in
Miami-Dade: A Growing the Middle Class Supplement, based on the 2000 Census.
Study available at www.brookings.edu/metro
Copyright © 2005, South Florida Sun-Sentinel