What the 2010 Census Tells Us

April 21st, 2011

By Seth Forman

U.S. Census 2010What the 2010 census tells us about America, New York, and Long Island.

I recently prepared a report for the Long Island Regional Planning Council that summarized the first data to be released for the 2010 Census.

Basically the report found:

1.  Populations in the south and southwestern states are growing faster than other regions of the country.

2.  Lower density suburban counties are growing faster than central cities and high density suburban counties.

3.  In the New York metro area, “exurban”/suburban counties like Dutchess, Rockland, and Orange are growing faster than New York City and high density “inner ring” suburban counties like Nassau and Westchester.

4.  Blacks are becoming more suburban.

5.  Blacks are moving to the south from midwestern and northeastern central cities, especially to the Atlanta metro region, a reversal of their “great migration” away from the rural south over the past century.

6.  Every place is becoming more Hispanic and Asian.

7.  The population “center” of Long Island continues to move eastward, away from New York City and toward the more rural east end.

8.  Suffolk is more Hispanic than Nassau.

9.  Nassau is more Asian than Suffolk.

10.  Finally, the idea, promoted by most of the planning profession and by some high-profile urban boosters like Richard Florida, that the future of metro regions depends on strengthening the 19th century model of central cities as core business districts with increasingly high density in surrounding suburbs, appears to belie the preference of most living human beings for less dense suburban living and jobs close to home.

I am listing the main findings of this report below. A more detailed analysis and graphic presentation of the report can be found here and here at the Suffolk County Planning Department website, under “Reports and Briefing Documents.”

Main Findings

  • The U.S. population grew 9.7 percent from 2000 to 2010 to 309 million. This compares with a 2.1 percent growth rate for New York State to reach 19.4 million, a 2.1 percent growth rate for New York City to reach 8.2 million, and a 2.9 percent growth rate for Long Island to reach 2.8 million.
  • Suffolk’s population grew to 1.493 million with 5.2 percent growth from 2000. Nassau’s population grew to 1.340 million with 0.4 percent growth from 2000.
  • Geographically, the center of population for the U.S. moved southwestward to Texas County, Missouri. Suffolk’s center of population moved slightly north eastward to Lake Ronkonkoma, while Nassau’s remained in East Garden City.
  • The fastest growing states are in the south, the southwest, and the Rocky Mountains.
  • People from the Northeast and the Midwest have been flocking to the South Atlantic states, not only to retirement communities but to Tampa and Jacksonville, Atlanta, and Charlotte and Raleigh, which are among the nation’s fastest-growing metro areas.
  • New York state’s share of the nation’s population has dropped to approximately 6.3 percent, the lowest it’s been since at least 1900.
  • New York City now contains 42.2 percent of New York State’s total population,  a drop from its 1940 peak of 55.3 percent.
  • Long Island now contains 14.6 percent of the state’s total population, up a tenth of a percentage point since 2000, and down slightly from its peak of 14.8 percent in 1980.
  • Suffolk county now contains 7.7 percent of New York state’s total population, up two-tenths of a percentage point from 2000 and the highest percentage ever. By contrast, Nassau county now holds 6.9 percent of the state’s total population, a drop from the 2000 census of a tenth of a percentage point.
  • The fastest growing counties in the downstate region of New York state are Orange (9.2 percent) Rockland (8.7 percent), and Dutchess (6.2 percent), followed closely by Suffolk County (5.2 percent). In New York state overall, the fastest growing county was Saratoga (9.5 percent), which, while tiny by downstate standards, is an outer ring county of Albany and Schenectady.
  • Southold, Shelter Island, Brookhaven, East Hampton and Riverhead round out the top five biggest population gainers of the region’s thirteen towns and two cities. Fifteen of the top 20 communities with the largest gains in population between 2000 and 2010 are in or east of Brookhaven town, while nineteen of the twenty communities with the biggest population losses are in or west of Brookhaven town.
  • America is becoming less white and more non-white, with Hispanics now 16.3 percent of the nation’s population (up from 12.5), Asians 4.7 percent (up from 3.6), blacks 12.2 percent (up from 12.1), and non-Hispanic whites 63.7 percent (down from 69.1).
  • Overall, central cities, which accounted for 11 percent of metropolitan growth in the 1990s, constituted barely 4 percent of the growth in the last decade. Some core cities, notably Chicago, have shrunk after making gains in the 1990s.
  • Growth in the population in the outer counties of the New York metro region averaged 5.6 percent, while growth in the inner counties averaged 3.5 percent and growth in the urban core (the five boroughs of New York City), averaged 2.1 percent.
  • Long Island is slightly more non-white than the rest of the nation, slightly less Hispanic, slightly less black, and slightly more Asian.
  • Blacks continue to become more suburbanized nationwide, reversing the trend of the Great Migration to the northern cities beginning in the early 1900s.
  • Non-Hispanic blacks on Long Island have been leaving the rural towns of the east end (Southold, Southampton, and Riverhead) and the historically more urbanized towns and cities (North Hempstead, Glen Cove, Long Beach). Meanwhile, the most suburban townships (Smithtown, Hempstead, Huntington, Oyster Bay, Brookhaven) have seen the largest increases in the non-Hispanic black population.
  • The growth in the Asian population seems to be fairly dispersed among towns. Among large towns Oyster Bay, Babylon, North Hempstead, Islip, and Smithtown rounded out the top five in terms of percentage gains.
  • Increases in the Hispanic population have been broad and deep across Long Island. In terms of the change in towns between 2000 and 2010, the top five Hispanic gainers were all the east end townships in Suffolk county. This could go a long way toward explaining the loss of the historically large black population in towns like Southold, Southampton, and Riverhead: Hispanic newcomers have likely displaced many blacks who formerly worked in agriculture.

(This article was also published at Examiner.com.)

[Seth Forman is author of the forthcoming book American Obsession: Race and Conflict in the Age of Obama (Booklocker).]


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One Response to “What the 2010 Census Tells Us”



  1. Tom Carter |

    Thanks, Seth. Interesting information and analysis on the 2010 Census. Some of the reasons for population movements should be obvious, but many “analysts” miss them. Anyone who has a choice wants to live in a peaceful, pleasant place where children can play outside safely in a decent environment. They don’t want to fight traffic for an hour each direction to get to work, and they don’t want to be surrounded by urban blight. In short, all the ills of our inner cities are driving people away.

    One point that’s very important is taxes. People, along with their businesses in some cases, are fleeing the high tax rates of states like New York, New Jersey, and California and relocating to states with much more reasonable taxes. Life is much better for all the other reasons, plus they don’t have to pay through the nose to support corrupt politicians, bloated public sector unions, and steadily declining services.


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