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Internet resources for what you need to know on NYC Demographics
Five Favorite Sites For Beginners

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

by Andrew Beveridge

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" ‹ 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 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.

Five Sites For Beginners:

  • US Census Bureau - Hands-down candidate for the richest source of post-1990 population data for NYC. Here you will find annual updates detailing age and sex, race and Hispanic origin, as well as births, deaths, net domestic migration and net international migration. Excellent special feature: county-by-county estimates of the below poverty level population. Indispensable and superb.
  • American FactFinder - Also courtesy of the US Census Bureau. Features data on population and housing, industry and business as well as a searchable database on any other demographic information you could possibly want. Available by state, metro or urbanized area. Maps too!
  • US/NYS Departments of Labor - Another exemplary source is the Local Area Unemployment Statistics unit of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Each month the Bureau, in a joint undertaking with the State, provides county by county estimates of the employment status of the working age population.
  • U.S. Commerce Department - A comprehensive handle on where and how New Yorkers earn their livings. Also features information on Big Apple employers, salaries, industries and their revenues. Especially recommended is a database maintained as part of Commerce's Regional Accounts.
  • New York Metropolitan Transportation Council - One of the more ambitious on-line undertakings in making regional and city statistical data. Contains data on population, employment and income, to name a few. Not always easy to use, but well worth the effort.

Other Recommendations:

  • New York City Department of Health -- Though the website of New York City's Department of Health is utterly confusing, their annual publication, "Summary of Vital Statistics for New York" is indispensable for would be students of population dynamics. And it's free. Call the Press Office at 212-788-5290 and ask for the Office of Vital Statistics and Epidemeology. Persevere.
  • New York City Department of City Planning - One would think that the DCP would have put its population data base on-line in a user-friendly way. But no. Go figure. It's still worth looking at their website to see the lineup of potential sources and types of population and economic information.
  • New York City's Housing and Vacancy Survey - Every three years or so the US Census Bureau provides New York City with a census-type survey of the city's households. Mandated by the rent regulation law, it contains much that is of interest to those concerned with social and economic change at the borough and neighborhood level. A compact disc containing the microdata files for the 1991, 1993 and 1996 surveys can be purchased from the Census Bureau. The survey for 1999 will be available for analysts by 2000, scooping the decennial Census.

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