Monday, August 01, 2011

2010 Census Reveals Startling Population Changes


      If you think census numbers are of scholarly interest only to statisticians and demographers, you’ve got another think coming. Careful analysis of the 2010 Census results being dribbled out by the Census Bureau reveals some startling and unanticipated trends. The most notable statistic is the degree to which Westchester’s population balance has been affected by international migration and high fertility rates among minority groups, especially Hispanics.

What the Numbers Tell Us       
Today, Hispanics are the fastest-growing population group in Westchester. In the 20 years between 1990 and 2010, the county’s Latinos grew by an astonishing 140 percent and Asians by 60 percent.
      Hispanics constituted only nine percent of the county’s population in 1990. That number grew to 16 percent in 2000, displacing blacks as the largest minority group. Another decade later, the county’s Latino population stands at an impressive 22 percent.
      Blacks increased by a mere five percent between 1990 and 2010. (The Census Bureau accepts the designations Hispanic or Latino as equivalent, but prefers the term black to African-American.)
      In 1990, the number of residents identifying themselves as white--Westchester’s largest ethnic or racial group--constituted 79 percent of the county’s population. By 2010, the white population dropped an unexpectedly large 22 percentage points. Whites now comprise 57 percent of Westchester’s population.

Some Westchester Basics
On March 7, 1788, five years after the end of the Revolutionary War, Westchester County was created and divided into 20 towns. Today, it is made up of 19 towns, many still with their original boundaries and each nominally administered by a supervisor. Within the towns, six cities and 20 villages were added, each administered by a mayor. Three Westchester towns--Mount Kisco, Scarsdale and Harrison--are now in a separate category described as a "town/village.” 
      Administrative nomenclature can be downright confusing. For example, there's a separate Ossining town and an Ossining village, a separate Mamaroneck town and a Mamaroneck village, and a separate Pelham town and a Pelham village, as well as a Pelham Manor village. Two villages are shared by towns: Briarcliff Manor is split between Ossining and Mount Pleasant, Mamaroneck between the towns of Rye and Mamaroneck.
      Westchester’s area is 500 square miles, 433 of which are land and 67 are water. At the time of the 2010 Census, its population was 949,113. In order of population size, Westchester's six cities are Yonkers (also the largest in area), New Rochelle, Mount Vernon, White Plains, Peekskill (the smallest in area) and Rye.
      Among Westchester’s towns, Bedford and Yorktown are the largest in area; Pelham is the smallest. Greenburgh is the most populous; Pound Ridge has the smallest population. Among villages, Port Chester is the most populous; Buchanan has the smallest population.

Population Distribution
Realtors don’t like to admit it, but choice of a community by house- or apartment-seekers is often based on two factors: the racial or ethnic complexion of a community and the strength of its school system. The latter figure, of course, is not measured by the federal census.
      The “whitest” Westchester city is Rye, with an 85-percent white population. Among towns, Pound Ridge (94%) and Lewisboro (90%) are the leaders, closely followed by Somers, North Salem and New Castle. Mamaroneck, North Castle, Eastchester and Yorktown also are towns with white populations of more than 80 percent.
      Among villages, Larchmont (88%) and Bronxville (87%) have the largest percentage of whites. Pelham Manor, Briarcliff Manor, Irvington, Rye Brook and Croton-on-Hudson also have white populations larger than 80 percent.
      Hispanics are the leading minority in the city of Peekskill, making up 37 percent of the population, with Yonkers a close second at 35 percent. (Minorities are defined as persons of any race or ethnic group other than non-Hispanic, single-race whites.)
      The village of Port Chester, 30-percent Hispanic in 1990, doubled its Hispanic population in 20 years. Sleepy Hollow (51%), Ossining (41%), Elmsford (38%) and Mount Kisco (35%) also had impressive gains.
      Among cities, the highest percentage of blacks is Mount Vernon’s 61 percent, trailed by Peekskill’s 21 percent and New Rochelle’s 18% percent. Among villages, Elmsford has the largest percentage of blacks (20%), followed by Ossining (16%) and Tuckahoe (10%).
      Asians comprise six percent of the population of the cities of White Plains, Rye and Yonkers. The village of Ardsley claims the highest percentage of Asians (17%), followed by Scarsdale (13%).and Elmsford (11%). (Asians include Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Pakistanis, Indians, Filipinos and Pacific Islanders.)
      Native Americans make up an almost insignificant percentage of Westchester’s population (0.1%). Recent news stories alleging that many Hispanics are describing themselves on census forms as Native American are not borne out by census results. In 1990, Native Americans numbered 1,405; by 2010, that figure had dropped to 1,141.

Population Density
Density of a community’s population is a function of lot size and the number of multiple dwellings. Overall, Westchester's population density is 2,193 persons per square mile.
      Mount Vernon is the most densely populated city, followed by Yonkers and New Rochelle. Rye is the least densely populated city. Eastchester is the most densely populated town, Pound Ridge the least dense.
      Among villages, Port Chester is the most densely populated, followed closely by Tuckahoe. The latter’s 6,486 residents are crammed into only six-tenths of a square mile, making it almost as densely populated as the city of Yonkers.
      Other densely populated villages are Pelham, Ossining and Bronxville. Briarcliff Manor is the least densely populated village, trailed by Buchanan and Croton-on-Hudson.

Population Growth
In 1900, Westchester was home to 184,257 persons. One hundred years later, its population had grown more than fivefold. Much of this growth occurred in the southern part of the county. During the first two decades of the 20th century, the cities of Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, White Plains and Yonkers all more than doubled their populations.
      The fastest-growing Westchester community in the 20th century, however, was the town/village of Scarsdale with a population increase of almost twentyfold.
      Following World War II, Westchester’s population soared by 29 percent between 1950 and 1960. Towns and villages alike saw rapid growth. The town of Yorktown grew 248 percent. Other big population jumps in this period include the villages of Ardsley (129%), Rye Brook (128%), and Briarcliff Manor (105%).
      Population changes, however, are not always in the plus column. Between 1970 and 1990, Westchester County’s population actually went down. In the 1980 Census, all six Westchester cities lost population, as did all villages with the exception of Briarcliff Manor.
      The population of Bronxville has gone down steadily since 1940. Mt. Vernon’s population similarly declined after reaching a high point in 1960. Yonkers reached a population high point in 1970 and has not attained that number again.
      Growth and decline are perfectly natural. Communities tend to go through cycles described as youth, a period characterized by growth, middle age, a period of retrenchment, and old age, a time when older housing stocks need restoration or replacement; when traffic patterns change and neighborhoods decline.

Population Trends
A multicultural community with a racial and ethnic composition not unlike that of the United States, Westchester’s major population groups were revealed in the 2010 Census to be 57 percent white, 22 percent Hispanic, 13 percent black and five percent Asian. 
      What no census can reveal is the embarrassing statistic that Westchester County’s administrative structure is glaringly redundant. Its property taxes are the highest of the 3,141 counties in the U.S. Moreover, New York has some of the highest property taxes of any state in the nation. The effect high taxes plus heretofore unchecked annual tax rate increases have had on population growth in Westchester is evidenced by the “white flight” that has taken place over the past 20 years.
      Although the federal government is responsible for controlling immigration, the federal census counts residents--not their citizenship. Illegal immigrants pay no taxes and are a considerable drain on social services and the economy. Unfortunately, we have no firm count of their numbers either in the nation or in Westchester.
      The bottom line is this: Barring a change in national immigration policy and fertility rates, if population trends continue as they have in the recent past, by the time of the next census, 2020, one in every three Westchester residents will be a Latino. Westchester’s minorities will become the new majority, and its dwindling white population will be a minority.


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