"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.
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
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.
(Sept '01) 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
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
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
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.
Five Sites For Beginners:
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.
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!
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.