While the number of native-born Long Islanders in their 20s and early 30s has dropped sharply over nearly two decades -- the only age group to show a decline -- among the foreign-born, that same demographic posted great growth, according to a report on the Island's immigrants.
It's yet more evidence, members of the Long Island Regional Planning Council indicated Tuesday, that policymakers need to do more to retain younger adults driven from the region by high costs, particularly of housing.
"Long Island's dearth of rental housing is a major, major problem," council chairman John Cameron said at the meeting's start. He said if the region failed to provide more affordable rental housing for younger workers "we will lose the battle" of retaining them.
Cameron's concern about the plight of the Island's younger workers re-emerged later in the meeting as a researcher from the Fiscal Policy Institute presented highlights of the institute's report, released in October, about the impact of immigrants on Long Island's economy.
The liberal-leaning institute, which has offices in Manhattan and Albany, has eyed immigration for the last six years, focusing on Long Island immigrants in two reports, said researcher David Dyssegaard Kallick.
U.S.-born Long Islanders ages 20 to 34 showed a 39 percent decline from 1990 to 2005-2007, while foreign-born Long Islanders in the same age group grew nearly 61 percent during the period, Kallick said, with immigrants helping to fill a void in the economy.
That is one reason immigrants aren't taking jobs away from native-born Long Islanders, Kallick said, noting the native-born younger worker is leaving the Island.
It's the "brain drain," noted Pearl Kamer, chief economist for the Long Island Association, the region's largest business group, who attended the council's meeting. She and others have warned policymakers that Long Island was losing its educated, younger workers.
Kallick said the data show that about 16 percent of the Island's population are immigrants, and that they comprise 17 percent of the labor force, and also generate 17 percent of economic output.
Long Island's immigrants are a diverse group, with the largest numbers coming from El Salvador (12 percent); India, Italy and the Dominican Republic (all at 5 percent); and Haiti, Colombia and Jamaica (at 4 percent each), according to 2009 census data. An estimated one-fifth of immigrants on Long Island and in the northern New York suburbs are undocumented, Kallick said. He said 54 percent of Long Island's immigrants are white-collar workers, one-third are in low-wage service jobs and less than 1 percent are day laborers.
"It's nice to have some data with some facts," said council member George Starkie, the former mayor of Farmingdale. "But the big thing is, we need federal standards" on immigration.