Population down in majority of upstate N.Y. counties, including Cayuga

| Auburn Citizen

The population in upstate New York is shrinking.

According to Census data released Thursday, population has decreased over the past four years in 40 of New York’s 62 counties, 38 of which are upstate. This includes Cayuga County, which had a population decrease of 1.2 percent from 2010-2014, about 1,000 people.

The majority of population growth over the time period for New York was downstate. Kings County (Brooklyn) and Queens County had the largest percent increase in population with 4.26 and 3.71 percent, respectively.

Cayuga’s decrease was about even with surrounding counties, with one exception. Both Oswego and Seneca counties lost about 1 percent, while Wayne County lost nearly 2 percent. Onondaga County’s population stayed about the same over from 2010 to 2014.

Andrew Fish, the executive director of the Cayuga Economic Development Agency, said a declining population in the county has been something his agency has been tracking for some time.

“We recognize that we’ve got an aging population and folks are moving away,” Fish said. “But, anecdotally, we have seen some additional young people come in.”

Fish added that the population decrease isn’t so drastic that it could affect development in the region, but is something “worth keeping an eye on.”

Cayuga County Administrator Suzanne Sinclair said the numbers are surprising considering that yearly sales tax numbers had actually been increasing in the country, and there might be a correlation between the two.

Still, she said it’s important for a county government to practice policies that encourage people to stay in or move to the area.

“I look at county government as the backdrop to economic development,” Sinclair said. “We provide the infrastructure and the services to create a desirable environment to live in, and the city and community college add to that too. We all want to create a place where people want to come and live.”

Cayuga County hit peak population, according to historical Census data, in 1990. The county had a population of 82,313 that year. In the 2010 Census, that number dropped about 3 percent to 80,026.

But it wasn’t all bad for upstate. Neighboring Tompkins County actually experienced population growth about even with the top downstate counties. Its population has jumped 2.83 percent since 2010, the highest in all of upstate and 8th best among all counties.

But otherwise, the numbers point to a continuing trend of declining population in upstate New York. A report by the Empire Center noted that upstate’s population as a whole has decreased, while total state population has increased.

Where exactly upstate ends and downstate begins is often relative, but for the Empire Center report, upstate was defined as north of the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District — so any county north of Orange County to the west and Dutchess County to the east.

That’s an area of 50 counties, 38 of which lost population from 2010-2014, the report noted. From 2000-2010, only 18 counties from the same group lost population.

The report chalked up the difference in downstate and upstate to immigration. People are migrating to other areas of the country —or even state — from all the counties, according to the report, but downstate counties make up for the loss with an influx of immigrants.

Every county and borough of New York City had a positive net migration —meaning more immigrants than emigrants —  with the exception of Staten Island’s Richmond County. The same could be said for only six upstate counties, according to the Empire Center report.

Schoharie County was hit the hardest by population loss over the past four years. According to the Census data, the county lost 1,100 residents — about 3.5 percent of its population.

While the full Census is done every 10 years, the Census Bureau releases yearly population estimates based on birth rate, death rate and migration. The numbers are measured from July to July.

© 2015 Auburn Citizen