2009-07-15 / Features

Accurate Census Count Is Vital For Borough

BY RICHARD GENTILVISO

The 2010 U.S. Census will not be conducted for more than eight months. However, city officials are already pressing the need for an accurate count. In the 2000 U.S. Census, the response rate in New York City was 55 percent compared with a national response rate of 67 percent and a New York state response rate of 63 percent.

"We've got to increase (the response rate) in 2010," Stacey Cumberbatch, City Census Coordinator for the New York City Census 2010 Office, said.

Cumberbatch said an estimated $14 billion in federal funding (the second greatest federal expenditure after defense spending) is dependent on the count. New York state also lost two Congressional seats (from 31 to 29) because of a population decline upstate and could possibly lose two more seats after the 2010 count.

New York City represented 42.2 percent of the 2000 New York state population, up from 40.7 percent in 1990. "The challenge is to make sure Queens has a full and accurate count of its population," Cumberbatch said at a joint meeting of the Queens Borough Board and Cabinet on July 6.

Part of that challenge is keeping up with the changing demographics of the borough. "It's said that New York City is the epicenter of the world," said Joseph Salvo, Ph.D., Director of the Population Division of the New York City Department of Planning. "Well, I don't have to tell you that [Queens] is one of the most diverse places on the planet."

The latest population estimate (July 2008) for Queens is 2,293,007 and it is expected to increase to 2.4 million by July, 2010. "Queens is growing, it is larger," Salvo said.

To demonstrate, Salvo showed figures for the five largest U.S. cities in 1950, when Queens placed sixth with a population of 1,550,849. Three of the top five cities in 1950, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Detroit, have all lost population, while Queens has grown by 40 percent.

Fueling that growth, said Salvo, is an increase by almost 50 percent (48.3 percent) of the foreign-born population in Queens. "There is a constant influx of new people," he said, indicating some neighborhoods in the borough have rates of 70 to 80 percent.

"Today, close to 1.1 million people are foreign-born in Queens," Salvo said. "That's twice the population of Atlanta, Georgia." The rate of foreign-born births in the city comprises 53 percent of total births while in Queens, it's over twothirds at 67.6 percent, he said.

Among those populations growing are the Asian and Hispanic. At the same time, there has been a drop in the non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black populations. The neighborhoods of Flushing, Corona, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights now have the largest immigrant populations.

Cumberbatch said an estimated 500,000 people living in New York City have not been counted. In the fall, the U.S. Census will open 18 local offices and begin to recruit, test and train 30 to 35,000 people to conduct the count.

In March 2010, the Census will mail out 3.4 million new simplified forms (10 questions in English and Spanish with a language guide to assist those needing help in another language). "All the information is kept confidential by federal law," Cumberbatch said.

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