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Citizens Union

GOP Senate Majority Repeals Census 2000


A cynic -- or maybe just a careful observer of politics -- might see the last half century of New York's history as one long and varied effort to make sure that the city has not gotten the political clout that it deserves. Starting in the 1950's, (and probably even before) the census routinely undercounted the population of New York. Finally, the 2000 census seems to have counted more accurately. Now, the New York State Senate is in effect repealing the results of the latest census.

The senators are doing this through their plan for redistricting. Though supposedly carried out with public input, incumbents and their staffs actually do the redistricting in old-fashioned backroom deals. The redistricting process, which is required to reflect the shifts in population within the state every ten years, is often compared to making sausage -- meaning, most people would rather not learn all the disgusting stuff that it is made of.

The 2000 census showed a marked increased in population downstate, and a decrease upstate. For almost a year afterward, all official redistricting plans kept the senate at a total of 61 seats, its current number. The problem,from the GOP majority's point of view, was that these plans put the senate at risk of switching over to a Democratic majority. One of the seats would have had to be moved from Republican-responsive upstate to Democrat-happy New York City, and one or two seats in Long Island would have had to change their borders to include someportion of the city.

So, the new plan put forward -- officially by the bi-partisan New York Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, commonly known as LATFOR, but actually by the staffs of the senate and assembly majority party -- increasedthe senate's size to 62 seats. The new seat was created in New York City. This sounds fair, but, in fact, it represents a very cunning way to dilute New York City's power in the new Senate, and maintain GOP control.

Adding an extra seat meant that virtually all seats upstate and in Long Island remained about as they were in 1992 -- maintaining them, in other words, as Republican strongholds. This also made a few other dirty tricks possible, including destroying the secure senate district of Eric Schneiderman, making him face a primary by an Hispanic candidate in a now more heavily Hispanic district, and putting Noach Dear in a predominantly African-American district.

More egregiously, every single upstate district now has fewer than the average number of people in a district, which is called under populated, while every downstate district is now over populated. For Congressional redistricting, no such deviations are allowed; the plan must reflect the principle of one person, one vote. In other situations, courts generally accept a total deviation of 10 percent from the "ideal" population. The New York State Senate plan has a total deviation of 9.78 percent. Remember, these deviations are not random -- all the districts that have too few people are upstate, while all those that have too many are downstate. The spokesperson for Senator Dean Skelos, the head of the senate's redistricting task force, has defended the population deviations by telling the New York Times: "It's legal, what more do you want?" But this obvious dilution of New York City's political power may not be legal at all, in fact. A pending federal court case will decide this.

Aside from repealing the Census, the GOP majority did some very creative districting in Nassau and Suffolk County and in Westchester and the Bronx. In Nassau and Suffolk, the plan split the black and Hispanic areas into several districts, so that they would not influence the outcome of any election. If they had not done this, minorities would have had a reasonable chance ofelecting a candidate of their choice, but this could also have meant that some of Long Island's current nine GOP Senators would have been re-elected. In the Bronx and Westchester, the plan redrew Senator Velella's district, extending it further into Westchester, and reshaping it as a kind of warped donut (though it was givena more imaginative description in a previous article on redistricting in Gotham Gazette). This was done to corral all the available whites into his district. The hole in Vallela's donut is an African-American area in Mount Vernon and the Bronx attached by a corridor to another African-American area in the Bronx. Both of the standard ways of diluting minority voting strength,which I outlined in a previous column, are on display here -- "cracking" (splitting minorities across several districts) and "packing" (piling them into a just a few districts).

The 2000 census results seemed to mean that New York City would gain influence in the State Senate. Due to careful line drawing, the elusive power seems once again to have slipped away. New York City might well have to wait until the next census to receive its due from New York State politicians. And, if history is a guide, one can predict that every effort will be made to assure that this does not happen.

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. 

Changing New York City


The latest data from Census 2000 paints a picture of changing New York City that is stunning, exciting and in some ways disturbing.

There are more foreign-born New Yorkers than at any time since 1910. New York is a better-educated city, but it is also a less English-speaking city. For the affluent and extremely affluent it is a substantially richer city; for the poor and middle ranks, it is a poorer city. Most workers in New York depend on public transit to get to work, and it takes them much more time to get to work than workers elsewhere. During the 1990s, the travel time for workers increased. For renters, it is a somewhat more expensive city to live in that it used to be, but for homeowners, the expense is astronomical. New York City has always been much different from the rest of the state and the nation. In the 1990s, it diverged even more.

Origin and Language

In 1980 about 24 percent of New Yorkers were foreign born (this category does not include Puerto Ricans or those born in other US territories that are not part of the 50 states and the District of Columbia). By 1990, foreign born had reached 28 percent, Now it is 36 percent. In 1910, New York City was 40 percent foreign born. If present trends continue the city may return to those levels before the end of the decade. Those born in Europe and North America account for a smaller fraction of all foreign born even though their total numbers increased, while those born in Asia, and especially Latin America and Africa, are up sharply. Indeed, those born in Latin America now account for 53 percent of the foreign born in the city. They now top 1.5 million, an increase of over 500,000. African-born more than doubled from 42,000 to 92,000. For Asia the growth was about 275,000, and they now account for about 24 percent of the foreign born.

The census also collects information on ancestry, which is a self-report of ethnic identity. The number of Arabs in New York City rose from about 52,000 to 71,000, while the number of Africans went from 53,000 to about 122,000. Most European ancestries declined, while those saying they were "American" went from about 157,000 to 238,000.

Those speaking a language other than English at home went from 40 percent to about 48 percent in the decade, and about one quarter of them report that they do not speak English very well. Despite this, the proportion of adults over 25 who graduated from high school went from 68 to 72 percent, while those with a college degree increased from 23 to 27 percent. Over 25 percent of the population that is from 21 to 64 years old report some disability, while 46 percent of those 65 or over report a disability. This is an increase from 29 percent, but the question is somewhat different than the one used in 1990.

Money and Housing

Some of the most stunning results concern money and housing. In the United States as a whole, median household income increased, while poverty declined slightly. Like most cities in a band beginning in Rhode Island and Connecticut and stretching down to Washington, DC, median income (the income earned by the household in the middle of income distribution) fell in New York City during the 1990s. In New York City it declined from $38,706 to $38,293. (All these figures are adjusted for inflation.) Information on what sort of families and households garnered higher income, and what sort garnered lower income is not yet available. For New York City, the results show that only Manhattan registered strong gains, with an increase from $41,872 to $47,050. All the other boroughs suffered declines. Those in poverty increased in New York City, also bucking a general national trend. However, when one examines those at the higher income brackets one finds that the rich did get richer in the 1990s. Those in Manhattan in the top 20 percent of the income distribution made at least $95,000 in 1990; now they make at least $119,000.

New York is an expensive city to live in. According to these new census results, the proportion of homeowners (about 400,000 of the roughly 3 million households in New York City) who pay more than 35 percent of their income for housing costs soared from about one fifth to well over one quarter during the 1990s. Who exactly is paying such a high proportion of their income to live in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn (counties with among the highest proportion in the United States) will be known later this summer.

For working New Yorkers, getting to work seems to be a particular hassle. New York City contains four of about 12 counties in the United States, where less than half of all workers get to work by automobile. Commuting rose about four minutes for the median worker, to 40 minutes. This means that many New Yorkers spend even more time getting to their job from their very expensive home.

Some point to New York City's rapid growth of immigrants and its decline in median income and link these two trends. Immigrants, they claim, just make less money. Though true in certain respects, it is also the case that other cities with rapidly growing immigrant populations, including Dallas and Houston, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago showed strong income gains (The exceptions were Miami and Los Angeles.) Indeed, looking carefully at the national figures, it seems that counties with high tech industry (Silicon Valley, the Washington State headquarters of Microsoft), with finance (Manhattan, San Francisco and Chicago), or with Casinos (Tunica, Mississippi) did well in the 1990s.

Figuring out the meaning of trends the recent census figures reveal will keep demographers busy for several years, and maybe until Census 2010 is released.

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 Census Bureau's Bad Estimates


Last year, when the count from the 2000 U.S. Census revealed that there were eight million people living in New York City, many demographers were shocked. The number was almost 600,000 more than they had been led to expect. That is because the United States Census Bureau had been making really bad estimates of the city's population every year for the whole previous decade. The bureau had estimated a growth of about 10,000 in the city each year; the actual growth was closer to 60,000 a year.

This was not a trivial error. The estimates were used by federal agencies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development to determine how much federal funds the city would get. When the actual count from the 2000 census proved that the bureau's estimates had been way too low for way too long, it would have been reasonable to assume that an embarrassed bureau would take steps to make sure that the estimates for the next ten years (until the next actual count) would be more accurate.

That is not what has happened, if the first new estimates are any indication. The bureau still does not know how to estimate the population in New York City.

WHY AN ESTIMATE

In Canada and some other industrialized democracies a census -- an actual count of the nation's population -- occurs every five years. In the United States, it is every ten years. Yet, there is a staggering demand for data on population change that cannot wait a decade to be updated. So the U.S. Census Bureau developed a system that tries to estimate the population change by using a mathematical model or formula. The system the bureau developed uses births and deaths (recorded by state agencies), net domestic migration (estimated from people who change their income tax filing location) and net international migration (estimated from a variety of sources, including data from the Immigration and Naturalization Service on new "Green Card" holders). They also use information on the movement of Federal employees, including the armed forces. Using the official population count from the decennial Census, the bureau applies the formula to every county in the United States -- including the five counties that make up New York City.

A FLAWED SYSTEM

It is clear that the system has seriously flaws. The bureau has already acknowledged this by putting changes into place for the national estimates. And, the bureau's population division posted "revised estimates" of previous decade's growth in New York City, taking into account all the growth they missed during the 1990s. http://eire.census.gov/popest/data/counties.php

But then, as astonishing as this sounds, when they issued the estimates for the growth in the city after the 2000 Census, they went back to their old discredited figure -- 10,000 per year. They even declared that the borough of Queens is losing population. If anyone has recently driven around Queens, they know that this cannot be true.

And indeed, recent conversations with Joe Salvo, Director of Population at New York's City Planning Department and Warren Brown, of Cornell, who does demographic analysis for New York State, have convinced me that the census bureau's estimates are simply wrong. Queens did not lose population; New York City probably grew a lot more than the Census Bureau reported. Privately, some demographers at the bureau admit the figures never should have been released.

WRONG BUT OFFICIAL

Nevertheless, whether or not they are wrong, the new estimates are official, continuing to determine some federal funding, and used in calculating various statistics about the city, such as the rate of disease and the rate of crime.

To see just how implausible the estimates are, you can look at the accompanying chart, which presents the new estimates for 2001, the revised estimates for the 1990s, just issued, along with the old ones that came out year to year during that decade. Note how flat the original line was, compared to the line computed using Census count in 2000. Note that after 2000, the curve is once again flat. In short, the Census system is now estimating a growth rate for the 2000s even less than their much-too-low estimates for the 1990s.

In the 1990s, New York City and New York State sued because the census count itself was inaccurate. Only Fernando Ferrer is suing now because of an inaccurate estimate, and it is so far to no avail. It appears that with the current estimate system in place, the bureau will under estimate and under count New York City for years to come. This will cost us greatly in both lost pride and lost billions of dollars. The United States Census Bureau stil l seems unwilling to report New York City's real growth.

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 Boom 1990's?


It such an accepted fact that the 1990's were a boom time in New York City that some New Yorkers are looking back at the decade with something close to wistfulness. But emerging data suggests that the truth is more complicated -- that the income for the middle class actually dropped in the metropolitan region.

At first glance, the boom seems indisputable. Between 1990 and 1999, personal income in New York City grew from 182 to 278 billion dollars; the average income per capita in New York City went from about $24,895 to $37,453. Even taking into account inflation the growth is still a very healthy 20 percent.

But both the Census Supplementary Survey and estimates based upon the Census's Current Population Survey provide grim news for New York. The Current Population Survey's estimates reported that the median income dropped in all five boroughs between 1989 to 1998. The estimated decline ranged from about $8,500 in Queens to about $3,100 in the Bronx.

How are both sets of figures possible, one showing greater affluence, the other a decline in income?

Looking at each of the five boroughs, the following stark fact becomes plain: The growth was in Manhattan, where the average income grew from about $61,000 to $82,000. boroughs. But the Census 2000 Supplementary Study suggests a decline in the other boroughs. Unfortunately, the survey did not question enough respondents so that reliable quantitative estimates can be made. But we will soon know what it suggests is true.

To understand how much total income there is one only need consult aggregate statistics. Such statistics show very healthy income growth in New York City. To figure out who earned the income requires data based upon surveys. Such data is much harder to come by. The census only occurs once every 10 years. It provides detailed income data by small geographic area. Other Census Surveys, the Current Population Survey, the New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey, the American Housing Survey do provide income data, but not for small areas. Because sample sizes in such surveys are small, the level of geographic detail is not great.

We now await the Census 2000 income data. Given the scattered results from other data, it seems very likely that the much heralded boom of the 1990s mostly helped the rich and very rich who live in Manhattan and other places with high concentrations of the affluent. The mythical "person or household in the middle" who receives the median income undoubtedly lost ground. If the poor made any gains, they were dwarfed by the gain of those at the top. In the same way that many companies have been restating their earnings in the wake of Enron, when Census 2000 finally releases the economic data for persons and households we may find that we must "restate the 1990s."

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.

Segregation


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 ñGreat Migrationî 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 theirs.

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.

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.

Non-Legal Immigrants


Recently, the United States Bureau of the Census posted without fanfare a new report that estimates the number of "unauthorized and quasi-legal migrants" Ăś people born overseas who have settled in the United States without permission from the U.S. government. In 1990, the census researchers had found that there were about 3.8 million of these non-legal immigrants present in the United States. In 2000, this number zoomed to 8.7 million. Assuming an undercount, there could be as many as 10.2 million. At the same time, the number of foreign-born as a whole increased in the United States from 19.8 million to about 30 million. This means that the proportion of all foreign-born in the United States who are not legal residents rose from about 20 percent to 28 percent.

At least one million non-legal immigrants make their home in the New York metropolitan area; as many as half of them may have arrived over the past decade, though it is probably less. The anti-immigration oriented Center for Immigration Studies http://www.cis.org/ sent out their own press release about this public report with the title "Census Bureau: Over 100,000 Illegal Aliens from the Middle East". The inflammatory headline undercut the most interesting information presented. The report finds that 3.9 million or about 44 percent of the "unauthorized and quasi-legal migrants" are from Mexico, with about four percent from the former USSR and El Salvador. As to the Middle East according to the report, both Iran and Israel supplied 30,000 non-legal immigrants. It does not present a figure for any other Middle Eastern country. Instead, all of them, including all of the Arab states and Afghanistan, were lumped together as the Other Mid-east, which all together produced 59,000 non-legal immigrants. (The Census says that in the future they may send out their own press releases when they issue new reports).

The metropolitan area in the last decade had an increase in the total number of foreign born, legal or non-legal, of about one million - from 3.6 million to 4.6 million, according to another recent report based upon a yearly Census survey, (available in pdf format) but most were probably not non-legal. The countries that supply large numbers of non-legal immigrants are not highly represented in New York. For instance, Russia, China, India, Korea and Jamaica and the Dominican Republic supply relatively few non-legal migrants.

Statistical Adjustment and "Hot" Decks

The United States Census Bureau continues to resist making an adjustment to the census to account for a failure to make an accurate count of all people living in the U.S. The bureau's decisions and a long-standing bureau procedure are now under legal attack. First, a group of Congressmen sued in California and a group of state legislators in Oregon and both won the right to have the adjusted data released. The Census Bureau is appealing. Congress members sued based upon an obscure law that gives rights to such information to seven Congress members on a committee if they are in a minority so there is a chance the Congress members will prevail. Second, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case concerning the legality of the bureau's long-standing procedure of estimating data when they know a household exists, but for whom they have no answer to the Census questions. The so-called "hot deck" procedure often used to create such data fills in the missing information by using the responses from the last responding household on the same block. The bureau has used the hot-deck procedure method at least since 1940.

The release of much of the new interesting data from the long form, such as income, occupation, education, place of birth, commuting, housing condition, marital status, etc. seems to be delayed and may not be available until early summer.

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.

Counting Muslims


A nasty dispute recently broke out about the number of Muslims in the United States. One study (available online in pdf format) claims six to seven million. Funded by four Muslim organization and directed by Ishan Bagby of Shaw University, it counted Muslims by contacting mosques and using various assumptions. The American Religious Identification Survey conducted by Barry Kosmin and Egon Mayer through the City University of New York Graduate Center found at most three million Muslims using a telephone survey. About one-quarter of all Muslims make New York State their home, according to Kosmin and Mayer Kosmin is one of the leading students of religious demography, and is co-author of "One Nation Under God," based upon a similar study done 10 years ago. The American Jewish Committee commissioned Tom Smith to assess the available estimates and make one of his own. His independent estimate largely agrees with that of the CUNY Graduate Center team.

Who is right? Why is it so difficult to count the number of Muslims? First, the Census Bureau is actually prohibited from counting Muslims. Islam is a religion rather than an ethnicity or a national origin, and the bureau is barred from asking about religion. Muslims and supporters of civil liberties might be especially thankful for this at this particular moment in American history. In a notorious chapter of their history, the Census Bureau assisted the US government in rounding up the Japanese-Americans at the beginning of World War II by using the agency's very detailed block-by-block tabulations. At a recent conference, a Bureau official said that they had received over 150 requests from other governmental bodies for information about Arabs (which are considered an ancestry) and immigrants from Muslim countries.

Since Muslims, whatever their number, are a small part of the United States population they are hard to count. They are also hard to define. Considering just adults, what does one need to do to be counted as a Muslim? Go to a mosque? Pray several times per day? Observe Ramadan? Have made a pilgrimage to Mecca? Eat Halal foods? Those trying to count Jews face similar problems. One definition of Jewish, for instance, is "Feeling you should go to High Holiday services." By such a definition apparently, it is enough to either go to the services or to feel guilty about not going.

When Bagby released his study in April, many reporters noted that if his figures were right then Muslims outnumbered Jews in the United States. This relatively unimportant fact in April that might add to Muslim bragging rights over Jews took on added significance with the September 11th attack. The American Jewish Committee commissioned Smith, and Egon Mayer is head of CUNY's Center for Jewish Studies, so some suspicion has greeted the release of their reports.

However, when one compares Bagby's methods and assumptions with those of Smith and Kosmin, it is plain that Bagby's is severely and fatally flawed. He enumerates all American mosques (1209 he says) and then interviews mosque representatives from a sample of 631. His response rate is a respectable two-thirds. But plainly big well-organized mosques with a well-staffed office would be much more likely to respond than smaller less well-funded mosques with part-time office staffs. He finds that on the average more than 1,600 people are involved with each Mosque, and then multiples that figure by all 1209 Mosques, claiming that about 2 million are involved. He then asserts that two thirds of Muslims are missing from the mosques, so he multiplies by three and announces that there are between six and seven Muslims in the United States.

Kosmin and Mayer by contrast base their estimate on the 219 Muslims contacted, while they were phoning about 50,000 people. Weighting their estimate appropriately they find 1.1 million Muslim adults, which is double what they found in 1991. Including children this would make the Muslim population about 1.5 million. Since there is sampling error they admit that the total could be as much as three million. Smith by ransacking available data comes up with an estimate of 1.4 million, 1.9 million including children. Looking at standard errors, his upper bound is very similar to that of Kosmin and Mayer. An analysis that my associates and I did for the New York Times of immigrants or children of immigrants from Muslim countries comes up with similar numbers. (It is true, of course that some immigrants from Muslim countries are not Muslim, and other Muslim immigrants come from non-Muslim counties. Other Muslims are native born.)

It seems that Bagby, along with many "ethnic group researchers" is willing to bend every effort to increase the count of his group . Kosmin and Smith, both renowned and careful social scientists, do as much as possible to base their counts on established methods. But even they give the benefit of the doubt to their highest possible count.

No matter how many Muslim there are, all researchers agree that the Muslim community, as with the Arab community (discussed here in September) are doing quite well in America. They are highly educated, many are quite prosperous, and they occupy a wide variety jobs. But it is also the case that they are Americanizing. As one of my students, an American citizen and the son of the Bangladeshi Islamic religious leader, told me: "My brothers and I are very observant, but my nieces and nephews seem much more American. I don't know if they will all continue to be Muslim." So like other groups, being successful in the United States may increase the group's influence and prosperity, while ultimately diminishing its size.

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 Arab Americans In Our Midst


Osama Bin Laden, the man whom many believe is behind the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, is from Saudi Arabia. Many of the 19 hijackers who participated hailed from Arab countries. There also have been reports of celebrations in some Arab and Moslem quarters, not just on the West Bank but also in Arab sections of the United States.

All of this has prompted an outburst of incidents against Arabs, Muslims, Middle Easterners and even South Asians in the United States, some of them in New York. The president of the Moslem Students Association at Queens College (where I teach) was targeted for attack and bursts into tears in class when discussing the bombing.

Both Mayor Rudy Giuliani and President George Bush have been scrupulous in asking the American public to avoid scapegoating innocent Arab and Muslim Americans. But there is some evidence that their calls are not working. In one poll, 34 percent of teenagers say they view Arab-Americans as potential terrorists.

What do we really know about the Arab-American community? Arab Americans seem to be following the pattern of other very successful immigrant groups to the United States. They are balancing their attachment to their new home country with their attachment to the Arab world. As with many immigrant groups some are torn between traditional and customary roles and the opportunities available in the United States. In short, they are becoming American.

According to the Census Supplementary Survey, about 1.2 million residents of the United States say they are of Arab ancestry, up from 870,000 in 1990, an increase of about 40 percent. The largest number of these are Lebanese, at 419,000, with a further breakdown as follows: Egyptian (124,000), Iraqi (41,000), Jordanian (65,000), Moroccan (45,000), Palestinian (64,000), Syrian (137,000), Arab/Arabic (262,000), and Other Arab (93,000). It should be noted that, as with any ethnic groups, the ethnic advocates such as the Arab American Institute and others put the real numbers several times greater than the official numbers.

In 2000, 77,000 Arabs lived in New Jersey and 124,000 in New York State.

Arab Americans seem to be quite successful. A poll done in 1999-2000 found that over one-third of households had incomes in excess of $75,000. Large proportions are employed in managerial and professional jobs. Many are educated.

To get "inside" the Arab American group, Jen'nan Ghazal Read of Rice University carried out a study presented at a recent sociology conference of the attitudes of Arab American women. For Christian and Muslim Arabs alike, Islamic values have shaped many Arab cultural values. The family remains the foundation of the Islamic community, Islamic law (sharia) influences what is considered proper interaction between men and women. Men expect women to be modest, and to content themselves with bearing and rearing the children. Few Arab American women accept these limitations. Many now work outside the home, have married non-Arabs, and support goals of the women's movement. The Arab American women seem to be "Coming to America" in Ghazal Read's words, as they balance their new life in America with their ties to Arab place and culture.

Though a tiny handful of Arab terrorists caused incalculable damage to New York City and the United States, the Arab Americans in our midst are hardworking, largely successful immigrants to the United States, balancing their Arab with their American identity.

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.

A White City Council


(August '01) For all the talk of the spectacular diversity in the hundreds of citizen-candidates this year, the truth is that there will be little change in the complexion of city government. White New Yorkers will dominate the "new" City Council, just as they dominated the old.

In the current City Council, 28 members are white. The results of this year's elections will show one or two Asians replacing white incumbents -- the first Asian-Americans to win city-wide elective office. A Latino may replace an African-American. But, when all the levers are pulled, the City Council will still probably have about 26 white members, or more than 50 percent.

How can this be so in a city that is now only 35 percent white?

If represented in proportion to their numbers in the population, there would be 18 council members who are white (there are 28), 14 who are Latino (there are currently nine), 13 who are African-American (there are currently 14), and five who are Asian (there are currently none).

Of course, Council members run in specific districts, not in the city as a whole. But looking at the majority ethnic groups district by district, there would be even fewer Council members who are white, if voters chose exclusively by the race of the candidate. (African Americans would have 11 seats, Latinos 11, Asians none). In the 12 districts where no single group has a majority, two districts have over 40 percent Asian, six have over 40 percent white, and two other districts have white residents slightly outnumbering Latinos.

In two districts where Latinos outnumber whites, District 7 in Manhattan and District 26 in Queens, a white could win anyway.

How can white candidates get elected while being in the minority? The simple is answer: Because whites pull others into a coalition. At the same time, the groups of color do not necessarily coalesce. Ferrer based his mayoral campaign on an alliance of African Americans and Latinos. This has yet to pay off.

Two districts in Queens, expected to result in change are instructive. In District 20 John Liu, the front-runner, lost to Julia Harrison last time. She is the Council member from Flushing famous for saying about Asians: "They have come here to colonize us." She is term limited. Liu reached out to many of the white residents of the district. He received the endorsement of the Queens organization, as well as many unions. He has raised the most money of any council candidate in the city, who is receiving matching funds. To try to win he has gone well beyond his own Asian groups.

In District 21, which is 67 percent Latino, Hiram Monseratte appears to be the front- runner. If successful, he will replace Helen Marshall, an African American, who is term limited and running for Borough President. Some of Monseratte's opponents say that since he is a Puerto Rican, he cannot adequately represent the district that has a large numbers of Latino immigrants. Monseratte, like Liu, has been focusing his appeal on district issues. He has garnered union and other support, and his coalition goes beyond being Latino or Puerto Rican.

Demography may not be political destiny, but it certainly helps shape it. In districts with large majorities of specific groups, those members usually win. Where there are significant numbers of several groups, the ability to form coalitions beyond race and ethnicity becomes important. This gives whites advantages beyond their numbers. Whites are often part of the existing power structure. It is easier for them to bring in members of new groups, than it is for members of the new groups to align with one another and oust the whites. The new City Council may look much like the old. Yet, the coalitions upon which it will be based include many of the newest New Yorkers. It will be up to the new council to serve their needs.

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.

Counting Gay New York


The U.S. Census reported last month that New York City has at least 25,906 gay households, a threefold increase since 1990. This would translate into about 52,000 gay New Yorkers, or just under one percent of the population that is 18 years of age or older.

This could of course be accurate - if you did not count any of the gay people in Chelsea, Park Slope or Greenwich Village.

How could the United States Census be so off the mark?

It would not be the first time that gay people were underestimated - or, to put it more accurately, were inaccurately accounted for. There was no real effort even to estimate the population of gay people in the country until pioneering research Alfred Kinsey declared in the 1940's that gay men comprised ten percent of all adult males. But Kinsey's data were not very valid, since they were based on interviews with a sample that was not scientifically random. Those who were interviewed had volunteered.

During the senior George Bush's administration, a major study of sexuality was to be launched, so that a reliable estimate could be made of various sexual practices to help understand the potential spread of AIDS. The Bush administration killed the study, but a consortium of private foundations funded a smaller version carried out by researchers at the University of Chicago. Combined with other data sources it still provides the best estimate of the size of the gay population, even though it was completed in 1994. (It resulted in the book The Social Organization of Sexuality by Edward Laumann, John Gagnon, Robert T. Michael and Stuart Michaels.)

For the United States as a whole the numbers were 2.6 percent for men and 1.1 percent for women. For small cities and towns and rural areas the percent was smaller. But about 9.2 percent of men and 2.6 percent of women (aged 18 to 59) living in the central cities of the 12 largest metropolitan areas reported that they identify as homosexual. (And a larger percentage reported engaging in sexual activity with members of the same gender, but did not identify themselves as gay).

Applying these numbers to New York City, one would expect that at least six percent of New York City adults are gay, or about 360,000. This number is quite consistent with exit poll results, which ask sexual orientation. In truth, since so many gay people are drawn to New York City, the number is likely to be at least 500,000 - or about ten times greater than what the Census reported.

In 1990, the Census added a new category "unmarried partner" to get at the large numbers of people, mostly heterosexual couples, who were living together in a relationship but were not married. Since the gender of the partners could be recorded, for the first time there was a way to make a count of what were likely to be gay couples. The 2000 Census refined the question a little about the "relationship to the head of the household." Of course, not all gay people are living with partners, and not all people who live together are in a romantic relationship, and not everybody could understand the nuances of the question. But at least now gay New Yorkers officially - albeit rather indirectly -- exist.

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.

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. 

 



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