Long Island's foreign-born population increased slightly between two five-year spans,...

Long Island's foreign-born population increased slightly between two five-year spans, with naturalized citizens and residents from Latin American countries composing the majority, according to new Census Bureau data. Credit: AP/Paul Sancya

Long Island's foreign-born population increased slightly between two five-year spans, with naturalized citizens making up the majority, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Overall, Long Island’s foreign-born population was 19.2% from 2018 to 2022, compared with 18.6% between 2013 and 2017, a statistically significant change, according to Newsday’s analysis of the Census Bureau’s 2018-2022 American Community Survey.

Foreign-born people made up 22.8% of Nassau County’s population between 2018 and 2022, up from 22% the previous five years, which the Census Bureau deemed statistically significant. In Suffolk County, foreign-born people composed 16% in the most recent five-year period, up from 15.6% between 2013 and 2017, not a statistically significant change. The bureau uses both the estimates themselves and the associated margins of error to determine whether the estimates are significantly different from each other.

“The modest increase in the foreign born population has to do with a slowdown of the number of immigrants since about 2017 and that number was especially low during the Covid years,” Jan Vink, a researcher with Cornell University’s Program on Applied Demographics, said in an email. 

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Long Islands foreign-born population increased slightly between two five-year spans, with naturalized citizens composing the majority.
  • Overall, Long Island’s foreign-born population was 19.2% from 2018 to 2022, compared with 18.6% between 2013 and 2017.
  • The largest share of Long Island’s foreign-born population came from Latin America: 49.5% in Nassau and 60.1% in Suffolk between 2018 and 2022.

Population increase

The Census Bureau said the nation’s foreign-born population rose by more than 5 million people — to an estimated 45.3 million — over a 10-year period, made up 13.7% of the nation’s total population in the period from 2018 to 2022.

New York, at 22.6%, was among four states where foreign-born people made up more than a fifth of the population, along with California at 26.5%; New Jersey at 23.2%; and Florida at 21.1%.

On Long Island, out of 158 villages and hamlets with 5,000 people or more, 52 had foreign-born populations of 20% or higher. Elmont, in Nassau on the border with Queens, ranked highest, at 44.2% between 2018 and 2022, according to the estimates. Next was Brentwood in Suffolk, which has long had a large Hispanic population, at 41.6%; followed by New Cassel in Nassau at 40.4%; North Bay Shore in Suffolk at 39.8%; and Hempstead Village in Nassau at 38.4%. 

According to the survey estimates, 69.5% of the foreign-born population in Nassau were naturalized U.S. citizens between 2018 and 2022, up from 62.8% in the 2013 to 2017 time period, a statistically significant change. The survey found that 29.4% of the overall population at least 5 years old in Nassau spoke a language other than English at home from 2018 to 2022, up from 28% in the earlier five-year span.

In Suffolk, naturalized citizens made up 59.5% of the foreign-born population, up from 53.3%, also a statistically significant change; and 23.1% of the population 5 years old and older spoke a language other than English at home, up from 22.7% earlier, though the change was not deemed statistically significant.

Latin American majority

The largest share of foreign-born people in both counties hailed from Latin America. In Nassau, the number was 49.5% from 2018 to 2022, compared to 50.9% between 2013 and 2017, a statistically significant change, according to Census Bureau estimates. In Suffolk, the latest five-year period showed that 60.1% of foreign-born residents were Latin American, compared to 59.1% from 2013 to 2017, not a statistically significant change. People from Asian countries were the next largest group: 33.4% in Nassau from 2018 to 2022 and 20.3% in Suffolk. Between 2013 and 2017, 31% of Nassau's foreign-born residents came from Asian countries and in Suffolk, the percentage was virtually the same as in the later five-year span.

Nationally, the bureau said nearly two-thirds, or 63.5%, of the foreign-born population who were at least 16 years old had jobs between 2018 and 2022 and that a third worked in management, business, science and the arts.

A report earlier this year by the New York City-based Immigrant Research Initiative found that immigrants on Long Island worked mostly in middle- and upper-income-wage jobs — defined as paying at least $48,000 and up to $140,000. Upper wages were defined as $140,000 and higher.

Using an earlier 2021 five-year census survey, the report, released in June, found that 60% of Long Island immigrants worked full-time and earned middle- and upper-income-wages, with 49% in the middle range and 11% in the upper range, while 40% earned less than $48,000. The report was undertaken with a grant from the Long Island Community Foundation. 

David Dyssegaard Kallick, executive director of the Immigrant Research Initiative, said in an interview: “Over the years, we’ve seen both things. On the one hand, most immigrants are earning at middle to upper wages. That’s the majority. At the same time, disproportionate numbers are struggling in lower-wage jobs.”

Kallick said part of it relates “to the question of time. When they first arrive, they have a difficult time getting established. Over the years, people start to do better. That’s a big part of the story.”

Minerva Perez, executive director of OLA of Eastern Long Island, a Latino-focused advocacy nonprofit whose services include legal services and health and educational programs, said: “I think an important point to make is many of these families have been here awhile.” But in the last three years, she said, many face rising housing costs and “wage theft, especially during the summer season. Either they’re not being paid” or they're being shortchanged, and they feel they have no recourse.

“We’re working with the State Department of Labor, and they’re responding,” Perez said. “If a human being is being taken advantage of, I feel like there should be an answer to that. If you’ve got people who are exploited, regardless of where they come from … that’s what you need to look at as a healthy society.”

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