Filling in more details of New York’s ongoing demographic decline, the Census Bureau has just released updated local population estimates showing that 80 percent of the state’s towns and cities have lost residents since 2020.

In addition to New York City, whose 2020-23 loss of 546,164 residents was detailed in the Census Bureau’s previously updated county-level estimates, all but four of the Empire State’s 20 most populous localities have experienced population decreases—including the cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers.

Out of 994 towns and cities for which values were reported by the Census Bureau last week, the population increased in 191 places, decreased in 796, and was unchanged in seven, as detailed on the map below.

 

By any measure, the fastest-growing locality in New York State since 2020 has been the Orange County town of Palm Tree, which is co-terminus with the mostly Yiddish-speaking, Ultra-Orthodox Jewish village of Kiryas Joel. Driven by a high birth rate, the town’s population rose by 8,906 residents, or 27 percent, to a total of 41,857 by 2023. (On the map above, the 1.5-square-mile town is a deep green pinpoint due west of the northern Westchester-Putnam line, too tiny to be discernible on most screens.)

The runner-up for population growth in nominal terms was the southern Westchester County city of New Rochelle, which added 4,006 residents (+5 percent) bringing its 2023 population to 83,742; the locality with the third fastest-growing total population was the town of Ramapo in Rockland County, which had gained 3,928 residents (+ 2.94 percent), bringing its population to 152,843. Ramapo also is home to a large number of Ultra-Orthodox Jewish families.

The color coding of localities on the map tells the story of where the gains and losses are concentrated regionally: the Southern Tier is a mass of mostly red and pink tints, while clots of green-tinted towns and cities are scattered across the mid-Hudson Valley, northern Catskills and eastern Suffolk County, which gained more migrants from New York City in the wake of the pandemic outbreak in 2020.

In addition to reflecting a nationwide trend of rural region depopulation, New York’s list of localities with high rates of population decline is dominated by upstate towns hosting state prisons whose inmate counts have been dropping in the wake of state criminal law changes designed to de-emphasize incarceration.

The state’s top 20 gainers and losers, in both total and percentage terms, are shown in the table below.


About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

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