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New York’s Responders and Protectors

by Andrew Beveridge, Mar 24, 2005
 

They stand apart, the 70,000 or so people hired to respond to crises in the city, protecting the lives and property of New Yorkers – police officers, firefighters, corrections officers, FBI agents, and so forth. To many, especially since September 11th, they stand apart as heroes. To some, they stand apart as villains. But, looking at statistics from the 2000 Census, they stand apart from the average New Yorker in other ways as well. They are, for example, whiter, less educated, less likely to live in the city, and also more affluent than the average New York worker.

The Numbers

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According to the Census, and departmental websites, there were about 40,000 police, and 11,000 fire fighters (including supervisors, but not including civilians), who were employed by and work in New York City. The census also found about 8,000 local corrections officers, as well as 11,000 protectors and responders employed by the state or Federal government working in the city. These presumably include officers from the Port Authority, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency and other law enforcement agencies. There is substantial variation among these different workers, but, as a whole they are quite different from other city workers, including those who work in other agencies of local government.

Where They Live

About half the fire fighters, and two-fifths of the police, live outside the city, in areas very different from the neighborhoods they service. By contrast, one-sixth of other government workers and about one-fifth of all New York City workers live outside the city. As a result many more of the responders and protectors are more likely to own their own homes, be married and live with their spouses (firefighters especially) and drive to work.

Characteristics of New York City Responders and Protectors and Other Workers
NYC Police NYC Fire Fighters NYC Corrections State Federal Protectors Other Local Government Employees All Other Workers
A. Live and Work
% Live in NYC
60%
50%
73%
58%
84%
78%
% Drive to Work
77%
87%
74%
68%
48%
31%
% Married with Spouse
56%
70%
52%
55%
49%
47%
% Homeowners
68%
83%
68%
66%
52%
44%
B. Sex
% Male

81%

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99%

66%

79%

42%

55%
% White
71%
93%
38%
69%
49%
56%
C. Background
% Hispanic
19%
6%
16%
14%
18%
20%
% Black
19%
4%
53%
31%
34%
19%
% Native Born
90%
93%
84%
88%
70%
59%
% Born New York State Born
81%
87%
71%
69%
55%
40%
% Irish Ancestry
27%
46%
7%
20%
8%
9%
% Italian Ancestry
23%
31%
16%
17%
12%
11%
D. Education and Income
% High School Grad
99%
100%
100%
100%
94%
89%
% College Grad
26%
29%
14%
34%
48%
40%
Median Age
35
39
39
37
43
38
Median Personal Income
$54,200
$62,000
$52,000
$50,000
$35,000
$31,000
Median Household Income
$83,000
$84,000
$74,500
$80,000
$65,200
$65,400

Race, Gender, Ethnic Origin

Unlike other workers, they are predominantly male, virtually all male in the case of the fire fighters. A higher proportion of the responders and protectors are native born, and a large fraction were born in New York State. A lower proportion of the police and especially the fire fighters are black than other protective workers, and a lower proportion of the fire fighters are Hispanic. Perhaps, it is not surprising that many fire fighters wanted to wear Tam O'Shanters again this year in the St. Patrick's Day parade, since almost half claim Irish heritage. The police, the fire fighters and the state and federal protective workers are more likely to be Irish than workers as a whole. Police officers and fire fighters also are more likely to claim Italian heritage.

New York City's fire fighters are virtually all white and all male. Indeed, the United States Department of Justice recently launched an investigation into hiring discrimination in the department. Now the department plans to spend $1.4 million to do something about it.

Education And Income

Though virtually all protective workers are high school graduates, a lower proportion than other city workers and other workers in general have completed college. The protective workers do earn substantially more than other local government workers, or city workers as a whole, and their households also are much more affluent. In terms of pay and benefits, the protective occupations are quite well paid, and it is not surprising they are sought-after positions.

Analysis Notes

This analysis was done by using the occupation, industry, employer and place of work codes for the individual records in the five percent Public Use Micro-Data Sample (PUMS) from the 2000 Census, which provides individual and household level data. All figures are based upon this five percent weighted sample. The New York City Fire Department and New York City Police Department can be distinguished in this manner. Obviously there may have been some changes since April 2000 however the number of police and fire fighters estimated by the Census sample is almost exactly what the two departments reported in that year.

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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