LONG ISLAND'S immigrant populations continue to grow. Residents are getting older. Income growth is stagnant, and housing values have plummeted. The Island's residents prefer the suburban life: living in single-family homes, raising families and driving to work alone.
The American Community Survey - five years of data gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau - provides that snapshot of who we are and how we live.
Bureau officials called the five-year estimates, made public Tuesday, the largest data release in its history, with an analysis of 670,000 geographic areas covering 40 topics. The estimates are not part of the 2010 Census, which won't begin to be released until next week, but paint a demographic profile based on age, marital status, household size, income, education and much more.
Long Island's home-ownership rate averaged 83 percent, according to the survey that assessed data from 2005 through 2009, and 82.6 percent of the housing stock consisted of single-family homes.
The median age in Nassau County was estimated to be 40.7 years, compared with 38.5 years for the county in the 2000 Census. Suffolk County's population median age was 39 years of age, according to survey data, compared with 36.5 years a decade ago.
And in what may reflect the beginning years of the country's economic downturn, Long Island's median household income, while still high compared with other areas, has stagnated: $92,450 in Nassau, down slightly from $92,756 in 2000, adjusted for inflation, and $84,530 in Suffolk, just slightly above inflation-adjusted $84,074 in 2000.
The survey data "allows us to see which communities have had the most significant changes over time," said Seth Forman, chief planner for the Long Island Regional Planning Council. "That's the value of this release" of data.
Some of the demographic changes suggest long-standing segregation patterns might be starting to break down, said Martin Cantor, director of Dowling College's Long Island Economic & Social Policy Institute. Roosevelt, the Nassau County hamlet of about 14,000 largely populated by minorities and considered the poorest school district in the county, showed the white population growing to 16.5 percent from 8 percent in 2000, with Hispanics growing to 23.3 percent from 16.2 percent. The community's black population dropped to nearly 72 percent from 79 percent in the past decade.
"What this shows is that this is a beginning step of reversing Long Island's trend of segregation in poor communities," Cantor said. "There is economic improvement when you're able to have a mixed balance of race and income levels."
Forman said overall the survey shows "the general patterns of suburban living obviously still prevail," referring to people owning single-family, detached homes.
Pearl Kamer, chief economist for the Long Island Association, the region's largest business and civic group, called the data "valuable" for small communities, but declined to draw conclusions until she studied the survey in more detail.
For small communities, the survey represents the first time since the 2000 Census that the bureau has released any socioeconomic characteristics for areas with populations of less than 20,000.
For some small communities, the survey confirmed anecdotal evidence of demographic trends, including an influx of Asians in several of Nassau County's North Shore communities and the large increase of Hispanics on the East End.
In Searingtown, a Nassau County community with an estimated population of just more than 5,000, Asians were estimated at 35.2 percent, up from 25.9 percent in 2000.
"The reason families are migrating to the North Shore is because of the safe and secure suburban living . . . and the second thing is the education system," said Jonai Singh, 42, of Searingtown, president of the Herricks Indo U.S. Community, a nonprofit group that helps Indians understand the school system and become involved in it. She has two daughters in the Herricks School District, which has a student population nearly 52 percent Asian, according to Superintendent Jack Bierwirth.
With Randi F. Marshall, Deborah Morris,
Keith Herbert and Carrie Mason-Draffen