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New York State counties population change 2010-2016 (percent)

New York State counties population change 2010-2016 -- without international migration (percent)

Population change and voting for Donald Trump

New York State counties population change 2010-2016 v Trump vote share

The Capital Region is growing very slowly -- which is better than many other parts of the state

New York State counties 2010-2016 population change map

The deeper the green, the higher population gains by percentage. The deeper the gray, the higher the losses. (Here's a large, clickable version of the map.)

The population of the Albany metro area was up slightly in 2016 compared to the year before, according to new Census Bureau estimates out this week. The Census figures the Capital Region had 881,839 -- up about 1,000 from the year before.

But compared to other large metros, this area's population has been falling behind. In 2010, the Albany-Schenectady-Troy metro was the 60th most populous among the nation's 382 metros. In 2015 it was 61st. And in 2016 it was 63rd.

Between 2010 and 2016, the Albany-Schenectady-Troy metro area's population is up 1.28 percent, according those estimates. During that same span, New York State population is up almost 1.8 percent and the national population is up 4.65 percent.

Here are a few more bits from the new estimates for metros and counties -- declining populations, immigrants, and Donald Trump.

Capital Region core

Both Saratoga (.4 percent) and Albany (.13 percent) counties posted small population increases between 2015 and 2016 in the new estimates. While Rensselaer (.02 percent) and Schenectady (.13 percent) had small decreases. Though, really, the gains and losses were slight. The population of each of the counties was essentially unchanged. (A reminder that these are estimates, not hard counts, so they're a little smudgy.)

There's more of a difference when looking at the span between 2010 and 2016:
+ Saratoga County: up 3.39 percent (6th in the state)
+ Albany County: up 1.52 percent (13th in the state)
+ Rensselaer County: up .42 percent (15th in the state)
+ Schenectady County: down .11 percent (18th in the state)

That Schenectady County could lose population over that time and still rank 18th in the state for population change gives you a sense of how widespread population losses are in other counties.

Widespread losses

How widespread? Of the state's 62 counties, 46 posted population losses between 2010 and 2016 according to Census Bureau estimates.

These counties are all upstate, with two exceptions: Suffolk (on Long Island) and Putnam. (Is Putnam upstate or downstate? Let's not get stuck on that.)

The counties with the strongest population growth: Bronx (5.10 percent), Kings (Brooklyn) (4.97 percent), Rockland (4.84 percent), Queens (4.6 percent), and New York (Manhattan) (3.65 percent). Notably, Saratoga County is next on the list at 3.39 percent, and Tompkins County (Ithaca) is after that at 3.23.

Immigrants are propping up New York

New York State counties 2010-2016 population change without immigrants
This is a map of county population change between 2010 and 2016 -- if you don't count international immigrants. The deeper the gray, the higher the loss by percentage. The deeper the green, the opposite. There's a clickable map at the top in large format.

The state's population losses would be much worse if not for one thing: international migration. That is, people immigrating here from outside the country.

Just four counties -- four! -- around the state would have posted population gains between 2010 and 2016 without international migration. Among those counties, Saratoga County is the leader -- it's population would be up 2.25 percent without immigrants.

How's that? Well, Saratoga is one of just two counties in the state -- two! -- that posted a positive population change due to domestic migration between 2010 and 2016. (It'd be interesting to know how much of Saratoga County's domestic migration gain is due to GlobalFoundries.)

So, to put it simply: New York State continues to lose many more people to other US states than it adds. And if it weren't for international immigrants, the population of the state -- and many of its counties -- would be sagging.

Rural areas keep losing population

Here's another way into this discussion: The counties around the state that are losing population also tend to have the lowest population densities. That is, they're more rural.

Of counties with population densities of more than 500 people per square mile -- a group that includes Albany and Schenectady counties -- just 3 out of 14 posted population losses between 2010 and 2016.

For counties below that density line, just 5 of 48 posted gains. (Though, in fairness, that small group includes some counties with strong gains, notably Saratoga and Tompkins counties.) And for counties below 165 people per square mile -- 37 counties in all -- not a single one posted a population gain for that time period.

Voting for Donald Trump

Here's one more way of looking at these numbers and it's really squishy, so it's important to take it with a lot of salt because we're comparing things that are probably more like effects than causes.

If you plot New York State county population changes against vote shares for Donald Trump in the presidential election, population losses tend to be coincident with higher levels of Trump support.

New York State counties population change 2010-2016 v Trump vote share
There's a larger version of this graph at the top.

Does that mean those two things are linked? No, not necessarily. (Again, much salt. If anything, counties are probably too blunt a measure for any real insight.)

But one of many, many ways of looking at the last election was that maybe there was a set of people who voted for Donald Trump because they felt like things where they live have been headed the wrong direction and he was the candidate that represented a chance for significantly changing course.

And if a county is bleeding population, that's usually a sign that something is broken.

Just the beginning

As we said when the state population counts came out in December, these numbers should prompt questions about why exactly people are leaving the state. Lack of jobs? Taxes? Weather? Retirement? It's probably some combination of all those things, and they're going to be tangled together in complicated ways.

That said, it's probably hard to overstate the importance of jobs. Of the 16 New York counties that posted population increases between 2010 and 2016, 9 of them were also among the counties with the lowest unemployment rates in the state this past January.


+ New York State's population growth has stalled


This just proves what I've been saying all along: lack of parking lots is driving people out of this area. People only move to places that prioritize parking over ALL measures of quality of life. Albany would be growing at a healthy pace if they were smart enough to raze Center Square and make it a parking lot. It's common sense!

Jamie - wait until city level numbers come out some time in April.
Past few years Albany _county_ was positive due to Guilderland, Colonie and Delmar numbers, while _City_ of A. wass close to zero net change. So yes, parking lots near good job locations tend to attract people - as opposed to walkable areas.

Population growth isn't a be all end all. What's more important is to dig deeper into the numbers. What if the total population of an area falls, but the number of people in their 20s and 30s with college degrees or advanced degrees is growing? This is happening in many places. Pittsburgh and St. Louis, for example, are declining in overall population, but the remaining population has higher levels of income and education. I suspect that much of the population decline in upstate New York is due to retirees continuing to move south. The fastest growing metros are Orlando, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. All three have multiple things in common: warm weather, fast growth in entry-level service sector jobs, and lower housing costs. Outside of retirees these places attract people with medium to lower levels of eduction and income, but housing is low enough so that people can have what they picture as a middle class lifestyle even though it really isn't. But is that what Albany or the rest of upstate New York should strive for?

Paul - well, you need very extensive datasets for that, I am not sure if Census would do that in their annual estimates.
If anything, 2000/2010 data available shows Albany county gained (both headcount and %%) in 18-24 and 45-64 age groups, 65+ didn't change, while 25-44 and 0-18 groups shrunk. That is the change between 2000 and 2010 - and we may have to wait for 2020 census data to learn more about current trends.

And next batch of data is out. Annual population estimates from Census are updated for city/town level.
As expected, Albany, Schenectady and Troy are in red.
Somewhat unexpected is that Cliffton park, Guilderland and Colonie are also in red. Bethlehem and Cohoes are only places in Albany county with estimated population growth.
And usual disclaimer that these are estimates only...

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