Long Island continued to slowly add residents through the recession and its aftermath.
Why is this important? The level of population growth is a fundamental benchmark of how attractive Long Island is as a place to live. New residents require more housing and services, but can also add to the vibrancy of growing communities, increase sales for local businesses and provide additional tax revenues. Growth in the working age population is also essential to Long Island’s economy. Over the long run, slow growth in the number of workers makes it difficult for businesses to expand or even remain in business. Increasing diversity can provide a cultural richness that many people value, but can also add to social tensions. In addition, some economists have found that workforce diversity leads to a stronger regional economy.
How are we doing?
In spite of the recession, Long Island has gained more residents in every year from 2008 to 2011. In 2011, the last year available, Long Island gained 10,000 residents, about 5,000 each for Nassau and Suffolk. From 2008-2011, the island’s population grew by 1.4%, less than the 2.2% gain in New York City and a 2.5% gain in the U.S., but about the same as in other suburban parts of the New York region. The reasons likely have to do with housing market and the nature of the recent recession. Long Island’s economy, while hit hard by the recession, held up well enough versus other parts of the country to prevent population losses. In addition, the sharp drop in home values, tight credit and the scope of the national downturn made it hard for people to move or sell their home. Long Island continued to grow because the number of births exceeded the number of deaths, and because its rate of outmigration slowed as people found it more difficult to move out. Domestic migration data supports the theory that the declining housing market, tight credit and the economy slowed outmigration. In-migration from the rest of the U.S. has been declining since 2003, but out-migration increased at a greater rate through 2006. From 2006-2010, out-migration declined substantially, particularly between 2007 and 2009 when the credit crunch was at its peak. It should be noted that this data does not include immigration from outside of the U.S., an increasingly important component of Long Island’s population growth.
Over the last decade, Long Island’s population growth has been slower than other suburban areas of the New York region, and much slower than the U.S.
While growth in Nassau and Suffolk have been comparable to other suburban areas since the recession, slow population growth in the early years of the decade hold down its relative growth from 2000-2011. During those eleven years, Long Island’s population grew by 3.2%, compared with 4.6% in southwestern Connecticut, 4.7% in northern New Jersey and 5.7% in the Hudson Valley. All of these areas grew much slower than the U.S., which expanded its poppulation by 10.7%.
Long Island’s population continued to age, and has the highest share of older adults and the lowest share of 25-34 year-olds in the region for more than a decade.
From 2010 to 2011, the number of people over 55 on Long Island grew by 1.2% as the baby boom generation continued to age. 27% of Nassau and Suffolk residents were over 55 in 2011, up from 23% in 2000. This trend is happening across the region and across the U.S., but Long Island has a slightly higher share of adults over 55 than other parts of the NY region (26%) and a much higher share than New York City (23%).
The number of 25-34 year-olds is an important indicator because this age group includes new entrants to the labor force and many first time home buyers. After declining as a share of the population through 2007, it has held relatively steady at 11% of the population since then. This remains slightly less than other suburban parts of the region (12%) and much less than New York City (17%). The gap between Long Island and other parts of the region has also grown over the decade.
Ethnic and Racial Composition
Long Island’s racial and ethnic composition continued to diversify, with blacks, Hispanics, Asians and other non-whites reaching 32% of the population for the first time. Over the last 21 years, the population share represented by these racial and ethnic minorities has doubled from 16% in 1990 to 32% in 2011.
From 2008-2011, the number of Hispanics grew by 48,000 to reach 16% of Long Island’s population. Blacks and Asians each grew by 10,000 and were 9% and 5% of Long Island’s population, respectively, in 2011. The number of non-Hispanic whites decreased by 45,000, and other non-Hispanics grew by 15,000. Long Island’s racial and ethnic composition is comparable to southwestern Connecticut, where the non-white share of the population is 31%, and the Hudson Valley, where it is 35%. However, it is considerably less than northern New Jersey, where 44% of the population is black, Hispanic or Asian.