Demographics
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The Topic
"Demography" is the study of human populations, using statistics to describe conditions of life. Demographers consider a range of information about the size and density of populations, the ages of their members, and how populations change. Births, deaths, disease, marriages, divorces, immigration, economic standing, occupation, race, ethnic and country of origin all are subjects for the demographer.
The Context
New York City is unique and fascinating demographically. Recently, it has had large numbers of foreign immigrants arriving, many long-standing residents leaving, an increase in the gap between the rich and the poor, and a rise in the black middle class. It is a city of unique ethnic and racial diversity; it has a large older population. It was the home of many immigrants during the turn of the 20th Century. It was a destination for many African Americans from the Southern United States. Many residents of the City's suburbs fled New York City starting after World War II. In some areas of the city there is rapid growth fueled by immigrants and their children. Some areas are undergoing racial and ethnic transition; others are gentrifying. These trends are important for understanding the Ccty and its evolution.
The Reporter
Andrew A. Beveridge has taught sociology at Queens College since 1981. Since 1993 he has done demographic analyses and consulted for the New York Times. He has provided expert testimony in districting and redistricting, housing discrimination, and numerous other civil rights cases in the metropolitan area and elsewhere. The opinions expressed in Topics are his alone.
The Archives
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by Andrew Beveridge

Manhattan Boom

Manhattan boomed in the 1990s. This was obvious to most New Yorkers, but now it is official. According to figures released this month from the 2000 census, the average income in Manhattan grew 12.3 percent from the 1990 census, to $47,030. This was as good as the booming areas in the West, such as San Francisco and Seattle, which did very, very well. However, though the figures are brand-new, they might as well be historical documents.

The statistics were not all good news for New York City as a whole, which lost ground overall. The median income for New Yorkers dropped 1.1 percent to $38,293. This was because income dropped in all four of the other boroughs. Incomes in Flatbush, Brooklyn and Soundview in the Bronx, for example, both declined by about 17 percent; East Flushing in Queens declined by almost 15 percent; and in Manhattan itself, Chinatown declined by 14 percent.

But the rapid growth of the financial sector fueled a boom that saw those living in the Wall Street area, in Tribeca, in Soho, in Morningside Heights, and in the Upper West Side with much higher median income in 2000 than in 1990. The boom spread to Harlem, East Harlem and Washington Heights, which also showed income growth. And income grew in well-known "hot neighborhoods" outside Manhattan as well -- in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope (including the South Slope), Prospect Heights and Williamsburg. New Yorkers did not have to be involved in finance, or even in Manhattan, to participate in Manhattan's boom. The stockbroker benefited his landlady in Carroll Gardens, restaurateurs could open new eateries in Williamsburg, real estate values could surge in "the Slope."

But if there was a boom in Manhattan economically, there was another boom in the other boroughs a boom in population. Much of this growth occurred in areas with heavy immigrant increases, such as Queens and parts of Brooklyn and the Bronx New York City experienced two large population movements during the 1990s that probably account for these numbers. One was the rush of immigrants from many different countries. Immigrants seldom go on welfare and eventually do very well in the United States. Yet, when they first arrive, they often accept low wages for several years, especially if they do not have full documentation to work in the United States. The financial boom in Manhattan is largely the result of the second big population movement, that of highly educated people, many of them native born and white, who came to New York to seek their fortune in Wall Street and related sectors.

The 90's financial bubble has since burst -- Census 2000 was being conducted just as the stock exchanges were posting all-time records and the aftermath of September 11th offers the daunting challenge of rebuilding both infrastructure and employment base. If the financial sector starts leaving for New Jersey (which is where Bear Stearns and others are going) or Westchester (where Morgan Stanley, Skadden Arps and the New York Stock Exchange are planning to set-up large facilities), the Manhattan boom presented in the Census 2000 statistics will be just a pleasant memory.


  • US Census Bureau -- The Census Web site is the premier site for data from the 2000 and earlier censuses, and from a variety of other sources. The site is very well indexed and has a very good search engine. You can order data, download data, make maps, download tables and publications, view publications, etc. As with any source it may have both more and less than you want for any specific use.
  • American FactFinder -- The American Fact Finder is meant to be the Census Bureau's main access point to data from the Censuses, the American Community Survey and a variety of other sources. Some criticize it for being hard to use for comparisons from one area to another. For a quick number or two it works like a charm.
  • US/NYS Departments of Labor -- Another exemplary source is the Local Area Unemployment Statistics unit of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Each month the Bureau, in a joint undertaking with the State, provides county by county estimates of the employment status of the working age population.
  • U.S. Commerce Department -- A comprehensive handle on where and how New Yorkers earn their livings. Also features information on Big Apple employers, salaries, industries and their revenues. Especially recommended is a database maintained as part of Commerce's Regional Accounts.
  • New York Metropolitan Transportation Council -- One of the more ambitious online undertakings in making regional and city statistical data. Contains data on population, employment and income, to name a few. Not always easy to use, but well worth the effort.


Other Recommendations:

  • New York City Department of Health -- Though the website of New York City's Department of Health is utterly confusing, their annual publication, "Summary of Vital Statistics for New York" is indispensable for would be students of population dynamics. And it's free. Call the Press Office at 212-788-5290 and ask for the Office of Vital Statistics and Epidemeology. Persevere.
  • New York City Department of City Planning -- The Department of City Planning has begun to update the data based upon Census 2000. Following the links and you can find discussion of changing New York City and some PDF maps.
  • New York City's Housing and Vacancy Survey -- Every three years or so the US Census Bureau provides New York City with a census-type survey of the city's households. Mandated by the rent regulation law, it contains much that is of interest to those concerned with social and economic change at the borough and neighborhood level. A compact disc containing the microdata files for the 1991, 1993 and 1996 surveys can be purchased from the Census Bureau. The 1999 survey tables and data re available for download.

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