"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.
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
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.
For all its reputation for diversity and tolerance, New York City remains among the most segregated areas of
the United States. The pattern of segregation was set in the city as far back as 1910, when one can already
see the beginning of black settlement in Harlem, Southeast Queens andBedford-Stuyvesant. By 2000, these
areas had become the centers of black population.
The separation of the races is of course not legally enforced in the city and, unlike the South, it never
was. Indeed, New York officially welcomed many new black residents during the ŮGreat MigrationÓ from the
South. In 1910, there were about 91,000 African-Americans in New York City, or about two percent of the
population of the city. By 2000, the figure had risen to 2.1 million, or about 27 percent.
But the metropolitan region of which New York City is a part is now the fourth most segregated in the
United States, edging out Chicago. There are few signs that this will ever change.
Measures of segregation were developed in the 1940's and 1950's to understand the
concentration of blacks in the "slums and ghettos" of major cities including
New York City. At first, segregation only concerned blacks and whites. The most popular measure of
segregation for demographers (the Dissimilarity Index or D)is simply the proportion of either
group (black or white) that must move to make the proportion of each group identical in
every census tract. (There are about 4,000 people in every census tract. In the year 2000, the United States Bureau of
the Census divided New York City into 2,217 tracts). If no one must move, there is perfect integration and
the index value is 0.00. If all members of one group must move then the index
value is 1.00, and the groups are completely segregated, with all the
blacks in one set of tracts, and all the whites in another.
Today, the D index of black-white segregation in New York City is 0.75. In
1910, it was 0.64. In other words, the city is more segregated now than it was in 1910. Since 1930, though the black population has grown steadily, the D index has remained more or less the same -- at least
0.75 in every decade, and for two decades exceeding 0.80.
Some express surprise that with such a massive increase in the black
population there seems to be so little change in the pattern of black-white
segregation. Many whites notice that blacks now live in their neighborhoods.
Yet there are census tracts in Middle Village in Queens and in Bensonhurst in
Brooklyn where not a single black person resides.
Some things have changed. Demographers have developed two other measures of segregation, what we call exposure and
isolation. If all the tracts in New York City were like the handful with no
black people, the exposure measure would be 0.00 for whites,and the isolation
measure would be 1.00.
In 1910 (see graphic), the exposure index for whites to blacks was about 0.02, while for
blacks to whites it was about 0.82. In other words, for the average black person, about 82 percent of the residents in his or her census tract were white, while for the average white person only about two percent of the residents of his or her tract were black. The white isolation index was 0.98, while the black isolation index was 0.82. Blacks were much less isolated and more exposed to whites than whites were to blacks.
By 2000 (see graphic), white isolation and black isolation were just about the same, at 0.66
and 0.62 respectively. The exposure level of whites to blacks had grown to
0.10, while that of blacks to whites had dropped to 0.17. By 2000, whites had
a few more blacks in their neighborhood, while blacks had many fewer whites in
During the 20th century, New York City developed a very deep-seated pattern of
segregation of blacks from whites and whites from blacks. It continues into the 21st century.
Five Sites For Beginners:
Bureau - Hands-down candidate for the richest source of post-1990
population data for NYC. Here you will find annual updates detailing
age and sex, race and Hispanic origin, as well as births, deaths, net
domestic migration and net international migration. Excellent special
feature: county-by-county estimates of the below poverty level
population. Indispensable and superb.
Also courtesy of the US Census Bureau. Features data on population and
housing, industry and business as well as a searchable database on any
other demographic information you could possibly want. Available by
state, metro or urbanized area. Maps too!
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
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
York Metropolitan Transportation Council - One of the more
ambitious on-line 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.
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
New York City Department
of City Planning - One would think that the DCP would have put its
population data base on-line in a user-friendly way. But no. Go figure.
It's still worth looking at their website to see the lineup of
potential sources and types of population and economic information.
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 survey for 1999 will be
available for analysts by 2000, scooping the decennial Census.