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Citizens Union

Politics And The Undercount


New York City has more people living here than ever before. The census found eight million New Yorkers. But there were many it missed -- probably 136,000.

We know this thanks to the science of statistics. There are now statistical ways of making up for the flaws in the physical collection of data - for the failure, in other words, of the United States Bureau of the Census to make an accurate count of each and every New Yorker.

The science exists to adjust for this undercount. But yet again, politics has gotten in the way of science. The Bush administration has decided to leave those New Yorkers uncounted.

This is nothing new. New York City has been complaining and then litigating about the undercount for about half a century. Its 1980 lawsuit led to the federal government agreeing to monitor the outcome of the census in New York City, and adjust the results if necessary, beginning with the 1990 census.

In 1990, after the census forms had been handed in and calculated, census bureau employees went back to New York and did a meticulous recount of a large selected statistical sample of households. (over 90,000). By comparing the first set of results with the second, it was possible for the census to estimate the undercount of various geographical areas and ethnic groups in the city.

After the 1990 census, the bureau professionals recommended adjustment so the official data more accurately reflected the actual numbers of New Yorkers (and of course others who had been undercounted). But George Mossbacher blocked that recommendation. Mossbacher was the Secretary of the Department of Commerce, the agency that oversees the U.S. Census Bureau. He also happened to be the campaign manager for the presidential campaign of George H.W. Bush.

Afterward, the National Academy of Sciences and others recommended procedures to make the census more accurate. All of these efforts were frustrated by GOP Congressional leaders. Indeed, while the latest census was underway, George W. Bush, suggested that the effort was intrusive, and indicated that he might not fill out the long form if he got one.

The process itself was subject to incessant attack by right wing radio talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh.

Nevertheless, for the 2000 census, the bureau intensified its efforts to make an accurate count, launching a better-paid advertising campaign than in 1990.

An analysis of the results shows that Census 2000 was probably the most accurate census ever, and missed many fewer African Americans, Hispanics and Native American than in 1990. Yet, for all its efforts, this was at least the third census in a row in which the population of New York City was undercounted. The same statistical sampling that occurred after the 1990 census occurred again, with similar results.

However, on March 1 of this year, an internal committee of professional demographers recommended that the census not be adjusted. On March 6 Commerce Secretary Don Evans agreed with the committee and ordered only unadjusted data to be released. In a fairly astonishing replay of the circumstances surrounding the decision a decade earlier, Evans was George W. Bush's campaign manager, and recently returned from Florida where he had defended Bush's win.

Earlier, he had elbowed aside the professionals, who were supposed to make the adjustment decision. Apparently, he need not have done so.

Census 2000 did show an unexpectedly large count, especially in New York State, Washington, D.C., California, Florida and other areas with large numbers of immigrants.

However, when the bureau employees did their recount of the sample households, they determined that the unexpectedly high number should be even higher. On the other hand, estimates based upon various other demographic methods suggested that they should be lower than the number counted.

This discrepancy stopped the internal committee from recommending adjustment. It also shows why New York City lost again. The Census estimation methods mainly use only new green card recipients to count immigrants. These figures overlook all other foreigners, including those, who are in the US for study, for work, or for long term visits. They also overlook those that enter or stay on in the United States illegally. New York City is one of the major immigrant magnets, so it is in exactly such places where the estimates will be low.

The presidential appointees to the Census Monitoring Board (appointed, that is, by President Clinton), in a report released May 1, cited consultants well-regarded in demographic and statistical circles, and condemned the decision not to adjust. Meanwhile, the Congressional (in other words, Republican) members of the same board praised the Commerce Secretary's decision and called any move for adjustment partisan.

As of now the census bureau refuses to release details of the survey that was to be used to adjust, though they have admitted that many of their other methods for assuring their accuracy were seriously flawed.

So far, only the unadjusted official count has been released, and about 136,000 New Yorkers will go uncounted. This loss translates into fewer legislators representing the city in Albany and Washington, and less federal and state aid. Indeed, when one thinks of the New York City undercount over the decades, the impact is billions of dollars in aid, and an incalculable loss of political power.

Andrew A. Beveridge has taught sociology at Queens College since 1981, done demographic analyses for the New York Times since 1993, and provides expert testimony on a range of cases, including housing discrimination. The opinions expressed are his alone. 

 

False Facts About Census 2000


There were three things that New Yorkers learned about themselves from the first data to come out of the 2000 Census:

  1. New York City, now eight million, grew rapidly during the 1990s.
  2. New York City is now the center of the region's growth
  3. Five percent of all New York City residents claimed to be multi-racial.

None of these are accurate.

1. NEW YORK CITY'S SLOW GROWTH

New York City experienced modest growth. New Yorkers were simply counted better in 2000 than they had been in 1990. The 1990 Census officially recorded New York City's population at 7.3 million; now it is 8.0 million. The difference is 686,000 or 9.4 percent. Growth is only one reason for the higher numbers, and it may not be the most important. Everyone acknowledges that the last census undercounted the city. Officially, the adjustment would have been about 245,000. This time the adjustment would be somewhat lower. However, the adjustment procedure assumes that all households are on the census address list.

A massive effort by the Department of City Planning, under the direction of Joseph Salvo, head of the population division and the city's census liaison, reviewed the census list of households and added about 370,000 household addresses to that list. Some were new construction, but many were auxiliary apartments or other sub-divisions of existing buildings. Many had not been visited in 1990, though they probably existed then. This is the first census where Congress allowed such a review. Indeed, in earlier censuses the bureau strongly resisted similar efforts and blocked them by court challenges for reasons of "confidentiality." If each newly found unit had two people in it (much lower than New York City's average) those extra 740,000 people would more than account for NYC's "growth."

No one will know how many housing units there are in New York City until the census releases figures later this year. However, City Planning Commissioner Joe Rose attributes half of New York City's growth to better counting. NYC probably grew at a more leisurely 4 or 5 percent, putting it in the same league with Chicago and behind Los Angeles.

Still, New York certainly did grow somewhat, thanks to immigration. This contrasts with many other cities in the region: Newark, Buffalo, Hartford, Bridgeport, and New Haven all lost population.

2. MOST REGIONAL GROWTH IS SUBURBAN SPRAWL

The fastest growth in the New York region is in the far suburbs, such as Putnam County in New York, central New Jersey, and some distant parts of Connecticut. Sprawl and "white flight" are alive and well. The most rapid growth in the New York region occurred in the outer ring of suburbs. While the Census counted 9.4 percent (and, again, many of these were just people who were not counted 10 years ago), Putnam County grew 13.1 percent, Orange County 10.2 percent; Dutchess, Greene, and Saratoga (now an Albany County suburb) all grew rapidly.

Unlike the New York City, none of these increases is based upon suddenly counting massive numbers of uncounted households. Indeed, 10 out of New Jersey's 21 counties grew at least 9.0 percent, and Somerset County grew over 23 percent. About one-third of Connecticut's roughly 175 towns grew faster than nine percent. Sherman, a town in Fairfield led the pack with 36 percent. Most such growth points in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey were quite a distance from New York City and far from local population centers such as Newark and New Haven.

3. TWO THIRDS OF THE NEW YORKERS WHO SAID THEY WERE MEMBERS OF MORE THAN ONE RACE MAY HAVE BEEN CONFUSED

Only a tiny number of New Yorkers made a valid report that they were two or more races. Almost all New Yorkers report that they are only one race. Many that reported more than one race probably did so in error. In New York City, about 393,000 people (slightly less than five percent) told the census that they were of more than race. But 71 percent of these listed that second race as "other race," which they were not supposed to do. Only about 115,000 people filled in two actual races, or about 1.4 percent of the population. This number reflects what the officials at the census had originally estimated.

These well known myths should make it plain that drawing conclusions from Census 2000 is not as easy as it seems. As Disraeli reportedly said: "There are lies, damn lies and statistics." Census 2000 certainly will continue to produce masses of statistics. The issue is how to sort the lies from the damn lies from the statistics.

Andrew A. Beveridge has taught sociology at Queens College since 1981, done demographic analyses for the New York Times since 1993, and provides expert testimony on a range of cases, including housing discrimination. The opinions expressed are his alone.

Census Bureau Finds 830,000 "Extra" New Yorkers


The U.S. Census Bureau released the first results from Census 2000 recently, and the numbers are surprising. Between 1990 and 2000 New York State appears to have grown by almost one million people. Yet, at the same time, as a result of these new numbers, the state will lose two congressional seats: The delegation will have 29 members, the smallest number since 1820.

How could New York have gained so many people and still lost political representation?

Throughout the United States, the Census found 6.8 million extra people, putting the U.S population at 281.4 million people. This was an increase of over 13 percent from 1990. For all the increase in numbers in New York (whose population as of April 1, 2000 was found to be officially 18,976,457), the percentage of increase here was actually below the national average. The Census found a greater percentage in other states. There were 1.3 million more people in California and over 700,000 in both Texas and Florida. New York has sunk to third most populous state, after California and Texas.

Still, the numbers that the Census Bureau found in New York were far larger than the estimates the Bureau had made. Comparing its estimate with the population the Census Bureau actually found, New York State has about 830,000 "extra people."

New Yorkers and others will ask: "Who are these 'extra' 830,000? Where do they live? Why were they missing until Census 2000?" The answers to these questions could have effects on the balance of political power in New York State, as well as on the distribution of federal and state funds.

They also raise questions about the accuracy of the Census count, both in 1990 and 2000.

There are very good reasons to expect many of the "extra 830,000" live in New York City and its environs. The 1980 and 1990 Censuses had both an undercount and an overcount. The undercount missed many in the urban areas, especially those who were poor, immigrant, or lived in unconventional housing arrangements (e.g. female headed, roommate situations, etc.) The Census historically has been very good at counting married couples with children living in a house they own. In fact, some households, especially those which are wealthier, are counted more than once. Sometimes this is because these families have two or more homes.

Because of these problems, in 1990, the Census selected a large sample of households to revisit in person. Extraordinary means were used to get an accurate count in each of these households a few weeks after Census Day. This count was then compared to the Census Day enumeration. From this effort the Bureau was able to estimate the undercount and overcount, and create adjusted totals for each block, tract, city, county and state in the United States based upon various characteristics, such as race, owner or renter, and so forth. This method increased the count in large cities, especially in minority and low-income areas. It also reduced the count in suburbs and other wealthier areas. New York City was undercounted by a total of roughly 250,000 in 1990.

According to a federal government study in 1990, there was a nationwide undercount of 10 million and an overcount of 4.4 million. The efforts to estimate the undercount and overcount were spurred by a court case originally filed in 1980 in New York City. The settlement of the case included plans to do a scientific adjustment in 1990 based upon the special sample. A panel of the National Academy of Sciences endorsed this approach. Nonetheless, the Secretary of Commerce in the first Bush Administration rejected the adjusted numbers, so they were not used for redistricting. This had the effect of taking political power and federal and state funds away from the urban centers and shifting them to the suburbs and less populated areas.

The 2000 Census carried out an even larger survey for similar purposes. It remains to be seen whether the younger Bush's Census Bureau will allow an adjustment.

Before the new numbers were released and most people thought New York State was just maintaining its 18.1 million population, the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) and others noted that New York was losing population upstate and gaining population downstate. It is not that the new census numbers mean this analysis was wrong, but rather that the Census Bureau consistently understated the size of upstate and downstate. If most of the "extra 830,000" are in New York City, then the political geography of New York State may change decisively. In 2002, each Congressional District must contain 654,361 people, up from 585,000 in 1990. If most of the extra New Yorkers live downstate, when they are combined with population shifts it is possible that most or all of the loss of Congressional representation will be borne by upstate areas, particularly those not in cities. Furthermore, when the State Senate and Assembly are redistricted, New York City might gain as many as five assembly seats and two senate seats.

Originally such a shift would seem to have required an adjustment to the Census 2000 count. But now it is not obvious how important such an adjustment may turn out to be. The Bureau implemented many methods to improve the coverage and results for the 2000 Census. These included efforts to reach more households and get a higher mail back response rate, as well as many efforts to reach those who did not return the questionnaire by mail. We do not yet know how effective they were. However, since the Census found an extra 6.8 million Americans, roughly 830,000 in New York State, one might expect a much lower undercount in 2000 than 1990. Even without any adjustment, the next redistricting may shift power to cities and urban areas throughout New York State, and many other states. With an adjustment the shift would be even more pronounced. At this point, all involved are waiting for the first detailed results, which will be released by March 31, 2001. Then we will begin to see some of the important consequences of the 2000 Census in dividing up the votes and money.

Andrew A. Beveridge has taught sociology at Queens College since 1981, done demographic analyses for the New York Times since 1993, and provides expert testimony on a range of cases, including housing discrimination. The opinions expressed are his alone.

The Census


The United States Census Bureau has been capably and professionally carrying out its assignment to survey the population every ten years since 1790. Indeed the requirement for some form of enumeration is set forth in the Constitution. But what began as a simple head count for purposes of defining Congressional Districts has morphed into what many now regard as a formidable invasion of privacy. Resistance on this score has escalated recently because of well-founded concerns about the abuses connected with the misuse of personal information gathered from Internet web-sites. Moreover, undocumented immigrants and the immigrant communities in general are apprehensive, despite specific and profuse assurances to the contrary, about the possible use of Census returns against them. This is because changes in the immigration laws in 1996 gave the INS swinging new powers, which it has used, to deport undocumented immigrants. And these are two categories that New York is well represented in: foreign-born residents and Internet users.

Averse to answer the Census because of their illegal status, undocumented immigrants' non-responses are greater among Latinos than among blacks. But blacks in New York City, including middle income blacks, seem to have developed a greater degree of mistrust over time. The citywide response rate in black neighborhoods is down by 5% in 2000 to below 40%. And, as far as one can tell from fragmentary evidence, rates are down by more in middle income black neighborhoods than in low income ones. In an article in the New York Times, Sarah Kershaw posits that the most probable reason seems to be a general mistrust engendered by the sharp reaction among middle class blacks to several high-profile police brutality cases in the last few years in New York City.

What can the Census Bureau do about the minority undercount? Not much. The Census can and does overcome the language barrier among non-English speaking immigrant groups by printing in other languages. And they do manage to keep the INS at arm's length. But, ultimately, minority groups and undocumented immigrants must participate of their own accord.

Andrew A. Beveridge has taught sociology at Queens College since 1981, done demographic analyses for the New York Times since 1993, and provides expert testimony on a range of cases, including housing discrimination. The opinions expressed are his alone.

Census Slackers


From now through early July, a veritable army of temporary workers will be reaching out to the households of those New Yorkers the Census Bureau didn't hear from in the mail. Most will be asked to fill out the so-called short form, which asks about the age and gender of members of the household. But a significant percentage will be called upon to negotiate a much more complex instrument: the 38-page long form which inquires about such matters as income (level and sources), marital relationships among adult household members, extent and character of participation in paid employment, educational attainment, needs for assistance in the tasks of daily living, place of birth and citizenship status and much, much more.

All terribly useful information for those who need to understand and respond to the changing nature of America's myriad social and economic structures. And, unquestionably, the Census Bureau has been capably and professionally carrying out this large-scale survey assignment every ten years since 1790. Indeed the requirement for some form of enumeration is set forth in the Constitution. But what began as a simple head count for purposes of defining Congressional Districts has morphed into what many now regard as a formidable invasion of privacy. (Note: only 16% of all households receive the long form.) Resistance on this score has escalated recently because of well-founded concerns about the abuses connected with the misuse of personal information gathered from Internet web-sites. Moreover, undocumented immigrants and the immigrant communities in general are apprehensive, despite specific and profuse assurances to the contrary, about the possible use of Census returns against them. This is because changes in the immigration laws in 1996 gave the INS swinging new powers, which it has used, to deport undocumented immigrants. And these are two categories that New York is well represented in: foreign-born residents and Internet users.

Anyone home?

As of late April, only 53% of New York City's close to three million households have returned their filled out Census forms. This rate of return is not that much different from that of ten years earlier. By borough, it ranges from a high of 60% in Staten Island to a low of 48% in Brooklyn. Nationally, the rate of return is quite a bit higher at around 65%. After two censuses of lower response rates, there has actually been a slight uptick at the national level -- because of a higher rate of return among Latinos. Thus far at least, response rates in New York City have been markedly lower in black neighborhoods than in Latino ones. Across the country though, the blacks' response rate shows no pattern of decline from the decade earlier census. New York seems to be an anomaly. As might be expected the highest responses inside and outside of the city occur in predominantly white middle income areas; 65% in Brooklyn Heights, 72% in Nassau County.

Averse to answer the Census form because of their illegal status, undocumented immigrants' non-responses are greater among Latinos than among blacks. But blacks in New York City, including middle income blacks, seem to have developed a greater degree a mistrust over time. The citywide response rate in black neighborhoods is down by 5% in 2000 to below 40%. And, as far as one can tell from fragmentary evidence, rates are down by more in middle income black neighborhoods than in low income ones. In a May 16th New York Times article, Sarah Kershaw posits that the most probable reason seems to be a general mistrust engendered by the sharp reaction among middle class blacks to several high-profile police brutality cases in the last few years in New York City.

What can the Census Bureau do about the minority undercount? Not much. The Census can and does overcome the language barrier among non-English speaking immigrant groups by printing in other languages. And they do manage to keep the INS at arm's length. But, ultimately, minority groups and undocumented immigrants must participate of their own accord.

New Vacancy Survey Data


With the economy booming, more of the City's residents are employed are than ever. But there is still the nagging question of how well they are doing. We know that those who are employed in the city's Manhattan-based global economy sector are raking it in. But what about New York's rank and file? The evidence here is far from discouraging. A recently opened window on this subject is provided by the 1999 New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey. Sponsored by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the NYCHVS has been conducted every three years since 1965 by the US Census Bureau. The survey's sample size, approximately 18,000 housing units, is large enough by the Census's exacting standards to be representative of the City's population and housing stock. According to the HVS, inflation-adjusted median household income in the city increased by 4% between 1995 and 1998 and by 13% from 1992 to 1998. In fact, New York outperformed the nation on this score for the longer period -- 13% versus 9% -- though it did lag in the more recent timespan -- 4% in the City versus 7% nationally. There was also a significant reduction in the poverty rate among the City's households from 21% in 1995 to 18% in 1998.

Welfare Reform's Aftermath


In 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) was reluctantly signed into law by President Clinton. PRWORA, welfare reformÕs rightful name, was overwhelmingly endorsed by a conservative Republican congressional majority. These would-be reformers legislated the demise of the federally-financed entitlement program Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), enacted in the Great Depression. Given that era's social mores, its original target group, women with children and without husbands, was viewed as being modest in scale.

However by the 1960s this was no longer the case, and the program's numbers began to mount. To further complicate matters, AFDC was fast becoming identified as a minority program that promoted family dissolution. While pundits speculated endlessly about "root " causes of poverty, taxpayers had long concluded that little good would come of AFDC, save for the much-derided culture of dependency. (Also in welfare reformers sights was the much smaller General Assistance program, received largely by single adults, down on their luck. But as a state-financed effort, GA was not within TANFĂ•s reach.)

With PROWRA's passage, AFDC was out, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) was in. To ease the transition, the feds, through TANF, provided the states with a sum of discretionary money to be used on behalf of their welfare populations over a five year period. Few parts of the country had bleaker predictions about the success of TANF than New York. Democratic pols, left-liberal academics and think tankers amply represented locally saw it as a racist-inspired Great Betrayal.

Tales From the City

Between 1996 and 1999, the number of New Yorkers who received TANF and General Assistance declined by 35%, from 1.1 million to 656,000. As a share of the City's population, they fell from 15% to 9% of the total. This declining trend also occurred in each of the boroughs and, more remarkably, in each of the City's 59 community districts. Within the overall public assistance population, the ranks of General Assistance recipients fell at a much faster rate 54% than did those TANF, down 29%.

But the decline of the late nineties was not the case throughout the decade; the 1990s saw the City's welfare population literally go up the mountain and then down again. Between 1990 and 1994, public assistance recipients increased by 34% and by the end of that period accounted for one out of six of all New Yorkers. Though this occurred during the Dinkins mayoralty it was hardly due to a policy of padding the welfare rolls. Rather it reflected the local economy's dire straits. A comparable upsurge in welfare took place nationally in the early 1990's, reflecting the halting recovery from the 1990-91 recession. The first two pre-Welfare Reform years of the Giuliani mayoralty coincided with a modest revival in the City's economy and the beginnings of a welfare population rollback. As the local economy picked up speed over the next (post-Welfare Reform) three years, the drop in the rolls intensified.

Taking Stock

What has happened to those who have dropped from the welfare rolls? No one really knows for sure. A considerable number have been picked up by SSI, a federally financed entitlement program which has a growing contingent of non-elderly disabled children and adults. But the safe bet is that most are in paid employment. Are they better off than before? This question is still unanswerable, though there seems to be little evidence of dramatic deterioration. One telltale indicator supporting this position is the post-1996 trend in food stamp usage. Still a federally funded entitlement program, food stamp recipients fell by 28% between 1996 and 1999. Hard times for former welfare recipients would be mean more, not fewer, recipients.

The Mayor and Governor Pataki were supporters of "ending welfare as we know it" from the get-go. But it is impossible to say how much of the ensuing reduction in the public assistance population on their watch is due to their tough-love positions, and how much is simply the result of the strong economy for which they bear little responsibility. And while great progress may have been made in changing the culture of dependency, it is nevertheless all too true that a considerable number of the poor are still with us. As 2000 began, over a million New Yorkers were on some form of public assistance (including SSI recipients), and more than a half a million of the working poor are dependent on Medicaid for health care.

 

 

In The News: Looking Ahead


It will soon be that time of the decade again. In Spring 2000, the census enumerators will be making their appointed rounds gathering information needed to gauge the changes in the way we live and work that have taken place in the last ten years. But their findings, scheduled to be released in early 2001 shouldn't come as a complete surprise to New Yorkers or to others. So here's a preview...

New Wine and Old Bottles

The 2000 Census will show that the City's Y2K population will be just under 7.5 million, one to two percent greater than it was in 1990. In other words, another 100,000 to 200,000 residents will have been added to New York's already crowded streets, packed subways and hard-to-grow housing stock.

Rapid racial and ethnic changes and their consequences have been a constant theme over the past half century in New York, and in all of America's larger, older cities. In the past, racial and ethnic differences were primarily a white and black affair. But while blacks and whites shared a common national birthplace, they possessed radically different perspectives on what their respective rights and entitlements were and what role government might play in securing them. Conflicts over these matters reached a boiling point in the 1960s and 1970s. Though there is continued tension, more recently, new groups have inserted themselves into the City's political order and socio-economic structure. They have created a new demographic reality. Continuing attempts to impose the institutions and approaches developed around the classic black versus white struggles of the Civil Rights era as a framework for dealing with the needs and problems of the newcomers seems less than adequate. New situations require new thinking.

The Way We Look Now By 2000, over 40 percent of the City's population will be either Latino (30%+) or Asian (10%+). Latinos will have surpassed the number and share of (non-Latino) blacks. Though whites still represent the largest of the City's major racial /ethnic groupings, their share is likely to be down to 37% by 2000 (and falling). Demographers note: Latinos are not a racial group, but are defined as having immigrated from a Spanish-speaking country or having a parent or grandparent who at one time did the same.

The emergence of this new demographic reality in New York and in a handful of what are now being called Gateway metros (Chicago, Miami, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco) is the result of the increasing scale and diversity of immigration into the US during the last thirty years. This process was initiated in the mid-1960s as the somewhat unintended result of a major liberalization of the laws governing immigration into the US. There is no gainsaying the role that immigration has come to play in population growth. In the 1950s, immigration accounted for well under 10% of the country's net population growth. Between 1990 and 1998, the comparable figure was just over 30%. And this only measures immigration's direct impact on population growth, without taking into account the disproportionately large contribution of immigrant families to the nation's birth rate. It is also worth noting that once within the US, immigrants still concentrate in only a handful of places, mostly in Gateway metro areas like New York. The tristate New York Metro area represents about 7-8% of the US population, and has attracted 20% of the immigrants entering the country between 1992 and 1997.

The 2000 Census is likely to show that 40% of the City's population is foreign born, up sharply from its 1990 level of just under 30%. In New York's case, the shift from a native born to an increasingly foreign born population is a pervasive one, affecting all the City's major groups. For example, around 30% of the City's whites and blacks are foreign born. The comparable figures at the national level are in the neighborhood of five percent. New York's still substantial foreign born white population consists of two distinctive elements. One of them is an aging, waning cohort of people who arrived as young adults or as children between the 1920s and the 1950s. Another one consists of a growing number of recently arrived Jews from Russia and the newly-independent states of Soviet Union. New York's distinctive and once again fast-growing foreign born black population is drawn from the countries of the Caribbean and includes Haitians and English-speaking Jamaicans, Trinidadians and Guyanese. Over 40 % of the City's Latino community is foreign born. The Latino native born population is still overwhelmingly dominated by persons who were either born in Puerto Rico, and hence automatically became US citizens, or whose parents or grandparents were. But like native born blacks and whites, the ranks of the City's Puerto Rican are being thinned. Last but not least, four-fifths of the City's fast expanding Asian population is foreign born.

However, just looking at the proportion of the population that is foreign born dramatically understates the extent to which immigration in the current period has and is transforming the life and look of the city. If one counts as foreign the children born in the US to a foreign mother or father the so-called second generation then the proportion of the City's population that is of foreign stock by 2000 will probably be close to two-thirds of the total. How different is NYC in this respect? Quite a bit. The comparable national figure will be around 20 percent. Indeed, the likely outcome of the 2000 Census will highlight how demographically unique New York really is.

Emanuel Sounds Off:

The clock is ticking on the real life drama set in motion by the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. By 2001, strict term limits are to be imposed on the remaining recipients of public assistance. While the City's welfare rolls have indeed plummeted -- a joint function of policy and a very strong local economy -- the specter of what might well be a substantial core of adults, many with children, who are simply unemployable is impossible to wish away. In any case, data indicating what progress is being made in moving this ill-favored group to the ranks of the employed is needed. This is, of course, no easy matter. But from an informational standpoint, it is difficult at this time to tease out the barest facts of what is going on in the controversial world of welfare reform. Evaluations, as they are somewhat generously called, are thick on the ground. For the most part they are carried out by groups heavily invested in opposing or espousing welfare reform's timetable and assumptions. But they add more heat than light to clarifying the issue of exactly has happened. Some plain English narrative would do a world of good at this point. The United Way of New York City used to provide such a narrative. Until 1997, it had been preparing for the City's Human Resources Administration a straight arrow, nonpolitical statistical compendium describing the historical trends in the City's low income population and in their utilization of social services. This effort has been discontinued for reasons which are not altogether clear, but is probably related to the Giuliani administration's penchant for limiting access to information which it believes could be used against it by its critics. That's not only a pity, but short sighted: This data base could provide a useful context against which to judge the consequences of welfare reform. It should be reinstated posthaste.

Andrew A. Beveridge has taught sociology at Queens College since 1981, done demographic analyses for the New York Times since 1993, and provides expert testimony on a range of cases, including housing discrimination. The opinions expressed are his alone.

NYC's Latest Figures


The Topic: Demography is "the study of statistics of births, deaths, disease, etc., as illustrating conditions of life in communities." Its subject matter is how and why the populations of particular places change over time, at least insofar as those changes can be quantified with some reasonable degree of precision. Near-synonyms: Population; Immigration; Socio-Economic Data.

The Context: New York City's population has remained largely unchanged over the past half century while the US population has doubled. Since 1970, New York City's American-born adult population has declined sharply, and is being replaced on a virtually one-for-one basis by immigrants and their children. In 1990, 28% of the city's population was foreign born. By the year 2000, the comparable figure will likely be closer to 45%.

Albanian Immigrants


The Topic: Demography is "the study of statistics of births, deaths, disease, etc., as illustrating conditions of life in communities." Its subject matter is how and why the populations of particular places change over time, at least insofar as those changes can be quantified with some reasonable degree of precision. Near-synonyms: Population; Immigration; Socio-Economic Data.

The Context: New York City's population has remained largely unchanged over the past half century while the US population has doubled. Since 1970, New York City's American-born adult population has declined sharply, and is being replaced on a virtually one-for-one basis by immigrants and their children. In 1990, 28% of the city's population was foreign born. By the year 2000, the comparable figure will likely be closer to 45%.

The Reporter: Emanuel Tobier is a Senior Researcher at the Taub Center for Urban Research, and a Professor of Economics and Planning at New York University's Robert Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. A native of the Bronx, he is a long-time student of and frequent commentator on the New York scene. His essay, "The Bronx in the Twentieth Century: Dynamics of Population and Economic Change," appeared in the Fall 1998 Centennial issue of the Bronx County Historical Society Journal.

The Archives: See past monthly updates for Demographics.

Andrew A. Beveridge has taught sociology at Queens College since 1981, done demographic analyses for the New York Times since 1993, and provides expert testimony on a range of cases, including housing discrimination. The opinions expressed are his alone.



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