The pace of population change in most New York counties slowed during the 12 months ending July 1, 2023, the third annual period measured by U.S. Census estimates since the disruption of the 2020 pandemic.

Accounting for most of the state’s previously reported loss of 101,984 residents during the period was a further decline of 77,763 in New York City’s population, according to the Census Bureau’s just-released Vintage 2023 data. The negative number was smaller than the exceptionally large drops experienced by the city in each of the previous two years—but the numbers don’t suggest a strong comeback either.

New York City’s total population loss since 2020 has now reached 546,146 residents, wiping out most of the 2010-20 gain of 629,066 as measured by the last decennial census. The borough-by-borough breakdown:

  • the population of Manhattan (New York County) was essentially unchanged last year—up just 2,908 (0.18 percent)—but remained 96,799 residents below the April 2020 census level;
  • Staten Island (Richmond County) was down slightly, with a decline of 2,767 people (-0.6 percent), and has had the smallest overall change since 2020 (a loss of just 1 percent); and
  • the larger outer boroughs declined in much larger numbers, with the Census Bureau ranking Brooklyn (-28,306), Queens (-26,362), and the Bronx (-25,332) as three of the four biggest 2022-23 population losers among all U.S. counties, with only Los Angeles County, Ca., losing more residents.

The population in the rest of the state fell very slightly for a second consecutive year, by 24,221 people (or 0.2 percent), split proportionally between upstate New York and the downstate suburbs of Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley. The county-by-county pattern of last year’s changes is shown on the map below. Populations increased slightly in 12 of the 50 upstate counties, while the only downstate counties with population gains were Orange and Rockland, in addition to Manhattan.

 

Voting with their feet

Most of the Empire State’s population loss has been driven by net domestic migration — defined as the extent to which the number of people moving from New York counties to other U.S. counties, in and out of state, exceeds the number moving in. During the latest 12-month period, New York’s statewide net loss to the rest of the country came to 216,778 residents, which was lower than the previous year but still among the biggest annual outflows ever.

Most of the domestic outmigration last year originated in the five boroughs of New York City, which lost a combined 162,310 people (1.2 percent of July 1, 2022 population) to other U.S. counties in 2022-23. The seven downstate suburban counties of the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District added combined domestic outflows of 32,598 residents (-0.7 percent). The upstate region as a whole had a much slower domestic migration loss last year—a combined net outflow of 24,168 (-0.4 percent).

As shown below, 14 of 50 upstate counties experienced net domestic migration gains during the 12 months ending July 1, 2023—continuing a post-pandemic trend that is markedly improved from most annual census estimates over the previous 20 years, when only two upstate counties (Saratoga and Ontario) consistently showed net domestic migration gains.

Missing migrants

There are, of course, two sides to the migration category of population change. In addition to net domestic flows, the Census Bureau estimates what it calls “international migration” to and from states on a county-by-county basis.

During the year ending last July 1, New York’s statewide international migration gain was estimated at 73,867—including 51,105 immigrants to New York City, which would bring the city’s total foreign immigration since 2020 to 130,000. The immigrant figure is almost certainly an undercount, given the reported influx of more than 170,000 illegal border-crossers into New York City since the spring of 2022. While upstate’s immigration total last year came to 22,362, bringing the post-2020 total to about 55,000, the publicly reported number of illegal immigrants placed by New York City in upstate hotels has been a fraction of that total. In addition, neither the city nor the Census Bureau has come up with an estimate of the number of illegal immigrants who have ended up settling in other states after a period of sheltering in New York City.

The final ingredient in population change is the natural increase, calculated as births minus deaths each year. During the year ending July 1, 2023, the statewide result was positive—a net 41,536 more births than deaths. But while all five New York City boroughs and six of the seven downstate suburban counties registered more births than deaths, only six of 50 upstate counties were positive in this category—another aspect of the region’s generally stagnant demographics.

Misery loves company

The best that might be said of New York’s generally negative-trending demographic indicators is that they’ve been consistent with trends across much of the northeast and upper midwest.

New York’s statewide population decline from 2022 to mid-2023 was 0.5 percent, compared to 0.7 percent in the northeast as a whole and 0.2 percent in the midwestern region. But as reflected on the Census Bureau national map below, only Illinois and West Virginia had similarly large shares of their counties shaded in the population loss category. The darkest green shadings, indicating strong growth, were in Florida and other southeastern states; Texas and Arizona; and Rocky Mountain states.Percent Change in County Population: July 1, 2022, to July 1, 2023[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

 

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

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

Read more by E.J. McMahon

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