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Release: Empire Center looks at latest Census reports showing NYS population continuing to shrink.
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New York’s ongoing population loss was mainly downstate in 2017-18
April 17, 2019

In a turnabout from recent trends, downstate New York’s population decreased twice as fast as upstate’s last year, according to the latest Census Bureau annual estimates.

To see where they are going, check out our analysis of federal tax data.

During the 12-month period ending last July 1, the 50 counties of upstate New York lost another 8,719 residents, a decrease of 0.14 percent, while the downstate region (New York City, Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley) lost a combined total of 39,791 people, or 0.30 percent. Virtually all of that decline occurred in New York City, accounting for the bulk of the state’s net population decrease of 48,510 in 2017-18.

The latest downstate population estimate of 13,306,502 reflects an increase of 267,226 (2.0 percent) since the 2010 census, while the combined population upstate stood at 6,236,157, a decrease of 103,119 people (-1.6 percent) since 2010. Since the last decennial census in 2010, the total state population has grown by 164,107, or 0.8 percent.

As shown below, 43 of 50 upstate counties have lost population since the last decennial census; in all but one of the losing counties, the decline has exceeded 1 percent of the 2010 base population. Dutchess, Putnam and Suffolk remain the only downstate counties to have lost population since the census.

Highlights of 2018 Census Bureau Estimates for New York Counties

(See Tables 1 and 2 for more details)

The Census Bureau has made a large downward adjustment to its calculation of international immigration, which has long been concentrated in the New York City metropolitan area. As a result, the estimated net change in the downstate population since 2010 has been reduced by half since the 2016-17 estimates were released a year ago. This also had the effect of reducing estimated populations below previous counts for some upstate urban counties.
Since 2010, Ontario and Saratoga remain the only New York counties to have experienced positive domestic migration, meaning they attracted more new residents from the rest of the nation, including other New York counties, than they lost (see map below).
The New York City county-boroughs of Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, the Bronx and New York (Manhattan), in that order, have experienced the state’s largest overall population increases since 2010, driven mainly by large natural increases. Elsewhere downstate, the largest percentage increases in estimated population have occurred in Rockland and Orange counties, while Saratoga has had the fastest growing population of any upstate county.
In percentage terms, the biggest population losses since the last decennial census have been in upstate rural areas: Hamilton, Delaware, Chenango, Orleans and Essex counties.

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Downstate New York’s population decreased twice as fast as upstate’s last year, according to the latest Census Bureau annual estimate...

Ontario and Saratoga remain the only New York counties to have experienced positive domestic migration since 2010

- E.J. McMahon is the Research Director at the Empire Center for Public Policy.


Where are New Yorkers headed?
April 18, 2019
New York State’s population has reached stall speed, up only slightly since the 2010 census and down slightly in the last year—largely because the Empire State continues to export more people than it takes in from other states, according to the latest annual U.S. Census Bureau population estimates.

The annual Census data include components of population change—births, deaths, foreign immigration and movement between counties—but do not offer more detail on population flows. Migration trends can be gleaned from the Census Bureau’s periodic American Community Survey, but these data are derived from a statistical sample. But the most reliable and current source of inter- and intra-state migration data originates with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), based on tax return filings.

In recent years, the IRS has begun to measure the movement of tax filers and their dependents in two-year segments, which makes it possible to measure the incomes of state migrants before and after they move to other states and counties. Based on the first five years’ worth of IRS data, covering 2011 to 2016, the Empire Center has mapped interstate movements of New Yorkers on a statewide, regional and county level (see below).

As shown in the nationwide map, Florida was the leading destination for New York out-migrants, accounting for 21.9 percent of the net total (calculated as out-migrants minus in-migrants). Rounding out the top 10 net destinations for New Yorkers were New Jersey (13.6 percent), North Carolina (8.1 percent), Texas (7.4 percent), California (6.7 percent), Pennsylvania (6.4 percent), Connecticut (5.3 percent), Georgia (4.5 percent), South Carolina (3.4 percent) and Virginia (3.2 percent). These 10 states collectively account for 81 percent of New York’s out-migration losses.

When migration patterns are examined at the regional and county level, some different patterns emerge. For example, while Florida is the leading net destination for seven upstate regions and Long Island, for Westchester, it’s Connecticut, and for out-migrants from New York City, it’s New Jersey.

For more information, contact Empire Center at


You've heard that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers leave the Empire State every year, but where are they headed?