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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

Eight Million New Yorkers!

(March '01) When the Census Bureau released the new numbers for New York City, demographers, politicians and everybody else reacted with shock, and with glee: There are now officially 8,008,278 New Yorkers, more than ever before.

This means the city apparently grew by 456,000 people in ten years.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani saw the new numbers as a vote of confidence, while his City Planning department attributed half of the apparent growth to bad counting in the past. But even if some of the increase is indeed due to a more accurate count, there is no question that the city has experienced a massive growth in its population, with remarkable changes occurring on every level - city-wide, borough by borough, and within individual neighborhoods.

The newspapers especially took note, making it their lead story. Two of them, the New York Times and Newsday are planning special Census coverage, and will keep all their maps and tables up online and available.

An extraordinary influx of Hispanic and Asian immigrants fueled the city's growth since the last Census in 1990. The Hispanic population in the city is now larger than the African-American one, 27 percent of all New Yorkers. In fact, only 35 percent of New Yorkers are in the category of non-Hispanic white, the category used for the "majority." This is down from 42 percent a decade ago. But it is difficult to think about crisp categories of race anymore anyway. Almost five percent of New Yorkers put down more than one race on their Census form.

When outsiders think of New York City, they think mostly of Manhattan, but Manhattan was the single borough without any population growth; indeed, there was even a slight decline. (One area of Manhattan that did grow phenomenally is downtown, specifically around Battery Park, Wall Street and City Hall.) By contrast, Staten Island showed major growth, a 15 percent increase in its population. The Bronx and Brooklyn each accounted for a fifth of all the growth.

But it was the borough of Queens that offered the most spectacular numbers, accounting for half of all the growth. Many neighborhoods in Queens (including East Elmhurst, North Corona, East Flushing, Woodhaven and Springfield Gardens) were among the 25 fastest-growing neighborhoods in the city. All of these neighborhoods have large numbers of Hispanics, Asians and African Americans.

It is Queens that has changed the most demographically. The area with the largest percentage of white people in all of New York City is in Queens -- Breezy Point in the Rockaways, with 98 percent. But that area is rare indeed. Queens is no longer Archie Bunker country. The percentage of people in the borough overall who are non-Hispanic white fell from 47 percent to 32 percent, a smaller percentage than in Brooklyn (35 percent).

Northwest Queens, the area that ranges from Astoria and Long Island City to Flushing Meadow Park, seems to be the Lower East Side of the new millennium. Like that legendary area, it has become a magnet for immigrants from many lands. Fourteen of the 18 neighborhoods that increased their level of Asians by more than 10 percent were in Queens (including Utopia, Fresh Meadows, Queensboro Hill, Flushing, and East Flushing). Three neighborhoods in Queens -- Ridgewood, Woodhaven and East Elmhurst -- were the three with the largest increase in Hispanics.

It is not just Queens where all this is happening. Racial and ethnic change was most marked in Canarsie, which went from one fifth to three-quarters African-American. But pass through traffic-choked downtown Flushing, with its over 20 international banks financed with funds from the Far East. Notice the well-kept streets of St. Albans, Laurelton, and the other middle class black neighborhoods. Learn of the escalating house prices in Bayside and other neighborhoods served by school district 26. Visit a street of shops where the owners hail from Ecuador, Costa Rica, Columbia, Guatemala, Pakistan, Bangladesh. You won't need the new Census numbers to convince you that, whatever snob appeal Manhattan has now, Queens may define the future of New York City.

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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