This story was reported by Matthew Chayes, Matt Clark and Olivia Winslow. It was written by Winslow.
Long Island's population grew 3.1% between 2010 and 2020, and continued a two-decade trend of becoming more diverse, with minorities constituting 40.2% of residents, up from 31.3% in 2010, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The population gain — 88,812 more Long Islanders — was hailed by local governmental leaders and others, who spoke of efforts to overcome 2020 census obstacles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent national lockdown.
The pandemic delayed the bureau's door-to-door canvassing and led a coalition of Long Island groups to shift efforts aimed at conducting an accurate population count during the lockdown.
The 2020 census data released by the Bureau, called "redistricting data," provides population counts and a race and ethnicity breakdown for communities nationwide. Lawmakers will use the latest data to reconfigure legislative district maps.
Change in LI Population, 2010 to 2020
The 2020 Census showed Long Island's population increased to 2,921,694 on April 1, 2020, from 2,832,882 on the same date in 2010.
Although whites remain a plurality of Long Islanders, there was a decline of nearly 200,000 (199,253), between 2010 and 2020. That drop was offset by an increase of 288,065 residents who identify as minorities, including 147,790 Hispanics, 76,331 Asians, 11,062 Blacks and 52,882 residents who identify with another race or more than one race. Hispanics can be of any race.
% Change in Minority Population, 2010 to 2020
Hispanics composed 20.2% of Long Island's population in 2020, up from nearly 16% in 2010, according to the data. The number of Hispanics rose to 589,364 in 2020 from 441,594 in 2010.
George Siberón, executive director of the Hempstead Hispanic Civic Association, said he was not surprised by the increase of Hispanics in Hempstead Village. The Hispanic population in what has historically been a Black-majority community, was 50.1%, according to the census, up from 44.2% in 2010; while Blacks composed 38.9% of village residents in 2020, down from 45.9% in 2010.
"One of the things we have known all along is that the Village of Hempstead has gone through a transition from being Afro-centric to Hispanic," said Siberón, whose nonprofit provides an array of services, such as educational tutoring and English language instruction. "We know that for a fact because 70% of the kids in the Hempstead school district identify as Hispanics."
But Siberón said those gains in the Hispanic population have not yet translated into greater representation in village government or on the local school board.
Growing diversity is a national trend, Census officials said.
"The U.S. population is much more multiracial and more racially and ethnically diverse than what we've measured in the past," said Nicholas Jones, the bureau's director and senior adviser for race and ethnic research and outreach.
The Census Bureau report said that people who identified themselves as multiracial increased 276% during the past decade.
Increased racial and ethnic diversity doesn't necessarily mean inequities have been reduced, noted Elaine Gross, president of ERASE Racism, a Syosset-based civil rights organization.
"Those things are not surprising," Gross said of Long Island's increasing racial and ethnic diversity.
"What I would say is some people translate that to mean we’re in a much better place now, we’re more diverse," she said. "I would just caution that kind of thinking, because this doesn’t tell us anything about increases in equity. It simply means we have more people of color. What we have seen in our own research, yes we have more increases in people of color, but we have an increased level of racial segregation in our public schools."
Nassau and Suffolk counties both saw population gains.
Nassau’s population increased by 4.2%, or 56,242 residents, to 1,395,774 in 2020, from 1,339,532 in 2010. The number of county residents classified as non-Hispanic white decreased by 97,855, while minority residents increased by 154,097. Minority residents made up 44.2% of the county’s population in 2020, compared with 34.5% in 2010.
Suffolk’s population increased by 2.2%, or 32,570, to 1,525,920 residents in 2020, from 1,493,350 in 2010. The number of non-Hispanic white residents in the county declined by 101,398. The number of minority residents in the county increased by 133,968. Minority residents made up 36.6% of the county’s population in 2020, compared with 28.4% in 2010.
Nassau made greater population gains in 2020 than in 2010, when its population only increased by 0.4%.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran in an interview Thursday said what she believed to be a census undercount in 2010 prompted her to establish a "complete count committee" in 2019. The committee took up efforts to enlist a coalition of "trusted" community members to fan out and educate county residents about the importance of the census and encourage them to complete it.
"We were Number One in the state in self response" to the census, out of New York's 62 counties, Curran said. "That didn’t happen by accident," she said. "We worked as hard as possible to get people counted."
She cited the hundreds of billions of federal dollars distributed to the states and municipalities annually based on the census, "money for education, infrastructure, Head Start, economic development."
Similarly, Vanessa Baird-Streeter, Suffolk's deputy county executive who headed the government's census outreach — working with the Long Island Community Foundation and the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island — praised the efforts of nonprofits and community groups who had to get "creative" in outreach efforts.
Suffolk's 2.2% growth over the decade wasn't as large as between 2000 and 2010, when it climbed to 5.2%, yet Baird-Streeter said she had a "good feeling" about the increase, in light of the barriers that had to be overcome because of the pandemic and census controversies under the Trump Adminstration, with failed efforts to include a citizenship question and exclude people living here illegally from the count.
Suffolk had the state's fourth largest population, and Nassau's ranked sixth out of New York State's 62 counties. Brooklyn (Kings County) ranked first; Queens, second; Manhattan (New York County), third; and the Bronx was fifth.
"The downstate population increases in general are impressive," said Steven Romalewski, director of the CUNY Mapping Services at the Center for Urban Research at the City University of New York. New York City saw a population increase of nearly 8%, for a total population of 8,804,190, an increase of more than 600,000, "which is huge," Romalewski said.
"Because the data collection was happening during the pandemic, people were concerned that it would be hard to count people and people would be missed," Romalewski said. "We don’t know yet, and we may never know, if the numbers should be higher, but it’s still encouraging there's been such a growth in population in the downstate region, including Nassau County."