Nassau County is changing and barely resembles the post-World War II suburb it was in the second half of the 20th century, new demographic numbers show.
The county's population is graying and growing at a slower rate than ever before. As of 2017, Nassau's newest residents were increasingly Hispanic and Asian immigrants, and one out of every 10 newcomers spoke English less than "very well,” according to a demographic profile released Tuesday by county Comptroller Jack Schnirman.
The data, from the U.S. Census Bureau, show a rapidly diversifying minority population that grew from 30 percent in 2005 to 38 percent in 2016. By the early 2030s, non-Hispanic whites will, for the first time, make up a minority of the county's overall population, Schnirman said.
"The county is getting older and more diverse than the generations that came before them with more languages spoken than ever before," Schnirman said at a forum Tuesday in Westbury with leaders of minority- and women-owned businesses.
Schnirman, a Democrat elected in January, launched a policy and research unit in the comptroller's office last fall focused on data-driven reports. Schnirman said the new analysis should be used to kick-start public discussions and policy changes to address the county's changing demographics and to help prepare for the 2020 Census, which is used to distribute federal funding, draw legislative districts and forecast transportation needs.
The demographics data, which include breakdowns by the county as a whole and by its three towns and two cities, show that while Nassau's population has continued to grow, the trends may not be sustainable.
During the past 12 years, Nassau's population grew 4.5 percent, from about 1.31 million people in 2005 to 1.37 million residents in 2017.
But during that same period, birthrates in the county steadily declined as young people fled the region, often because of housing costs and high property taxes, according to the report.
The Town of Oyster Bay, for example, has seen its population of residents ages 25 to 44 decrease by 25 percent since 2000. Long Beach has lost 20 percent of residents in that age group since 2000 while the Town of Hempstead saw a drop of 17 percent.
The county as a whole, the report found, saw an 18 percent drop in the 25-to-44 age group since 2000 but a 48 percent increase among residents ages 55 to 64.
Jeff Reynolds, president and chief executive of Mineola-based Family and Children’s Association of Long Island, said the report should be used to drive a discussion about funding the "health and human services infrastructure in Nassau County which, quite frankly, is frightening."
The analysis found that if not for a growth in the number of immigrant residents Nassau's population would have decreased over the past decade. Suffolk County, census data show, has seen its population drop slightly since 2010.
Nassau's white population has declined 7.4 percent since 2005 while the county has seen a 41.8 percent growth among Hispanics; a 40 percent hike among Asians; and a 7.8 percent increase among African Americans, according to the data. In total, 21.8 percent of the county's population was foreign-born as of 2017 and 7.7 percent moved to Nassau since 2010, according to census data.
The Town of Hempstead, the country's largest township, is rapidly becoming a majority minority municipality, according to the report. In 2000, 75 percent of town's population was white as compared with 54.8 percent in 2016. Oyster Bay remains the county's largest predominantly white township at just under 75 percent, the data show.
Among the broad proposals outlined in the report is increasing access to government services for non-English speaking residents and expanding housing and public transportation options to make the region more attractive to young families and professionals.
The report highlights Nassau's persistent racial and education gaps, Schnirman said.
For example, roughly 62 percent of Asians and 48 percent of whites in Nassau had at least a bachelor's degree compared with 31 percent of blacks and 21 percent of Hispanics, the analysis shows.
The trend was most distinct in Long Beach where 53.3 percent of whites had a bachelor's degree, compared with less than 20 percent of the city's black population, according to Census Bureau estimates.
"This is a picture of Nassau County that we all need to see so that we can move forward and make different decisions," said Retha Fernandez, project director of the Urban League of Long Island. "Because some of the paths we are going on are obviously not working."