April 11, 2012

As Economic Challenges Persist, Upstate Population Continues to Decline

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After New York State lost two congressional seats in 2010 as a result of slow population growth, new data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the state continues to see sluggish growth rates. In fact, the bureau estimates that more than half of upstate counties have fewer residents than in 2010, according to a University press release.

The findings only further the problems faced by western New York and the Southern Tier region, which includes Ithaca. The region has struggled to retain jobs and spur economic growth in recent decades, a challenge faced by other areas of the state as well.

19.46 million people were living in the state as of July 1, 2011, a gain of just over 87,000 people since 2010, according to those estimates. That reflects an overall growth rate of 0.45 percent, compared with 0.9 percent for the country over the same period.

However, the population decreased in 37 of the state’s 62 counties over that period, with the greatest losses in Broome and Erie counties in western New York. Tompkins County saw a net gain of 159 residents, according to the bureau.

The population decreases in upstate New York aren’t surprising, as they follow the census findings from the last few decades, according to Jan Vink, research support specialist for Cornell’s Program on Applied Demographics.

“For most of the counties and the regions in New York, it’s kind of a continuation of the trend from the last decade,” Vink said in a University press release. “People are leaving, but there are also fewer people coming in to the state.”

While birth rates and death rates were nearly equal in counties in the Southern Tier and western New York, more people left the area than came to the region, according to the data.

Though upstate New York’s population continued to decline, downstate areas saw higher rates of growth. In fact, New York City had the fourth-largest population increase in the nation, according to the Census Bureau.

Besides the economic issues posed by the decline, population losses over the last decade have also had important political ramifications for Ithaca and the Southern Tier.

Under the state’s redistricting plan, the 22nd Congressional District, which includes Ithaca, will be eliminated, The Sun reported on March 29. Tompkins County will now be located in the newly-formed 23rd District, which will stretch to Chautauqua County on the shore of Lake Erie. Most of this area is currently within the 29th District, which is represented by Rep. Tom Reed (R – NY 29).

Original Author: David Marten