U.S. Census data for New York was released a week ago today, and the numbers were than what the city predicted.
According to 2010 Census figures, population grew in the city at a rate of only 2.1 percent from 2000 to 2010. Even more interesting was the reported low growth in Kings County, where the population grew by only 1.6 percent in the last ten years.
Many New York City legislators are calling for a re-count.
But is the presumed disparity in the low population numbers an oversight on the part of the Census takers, or is it a result of an overall low response rate on the part of city residents? In other words, will a re-count make a difference?
In Bedford-Stuyvesant, for example, the 2000 Census response rate averaged slightly over 40 percent, compared to 55 percent for New York City overall, according to the Coalition for the Improvement of Bedford-Stuyvesant (CIBS).
As a result, the 2010 Census Funders NYC Initiative – a partnership of New York Community Trust, the New York Foundation and the New York City Census Office – issued a grant to CIBS to launch a twelve week outreach education campaign titled, Bed-Stuy: Be Heard! Be Counted!
CIBS was among 35 grassroots organizations located in neighborhoods with historically low Census response rates tasked with the challenge of getting more community residents to complete and mail back the 2010 Census forms.
The organization's goal was to increase participation rates by 15 percent to reach the 2000 citywide average of 55 percent. The Committee for New York City also gave money to support the effort.
So, how did Bed-Stuy fare in the 2010 Census? Did its reporting numbers increase, and if so, in which areas?
The results may surprise you. But first, let us look at the outreach process:
CIBS hired four experienced community organizers, all residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant, to reach out to neighborhood block associations (30 in total), houses of worship (42 in total), schools (6 in total), and community facilities (4 in total).
A fifth community organizer was hired to serve as outreach street team leader, managing a six-person cohort from the Bed-Stuy’s NYC Justice Corp, a young adult reentry program housed at Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation.
The CIBS community organizers and Justice Corps members dedicated nearly 700 hours to resident outreach and education.
Collectively, they canvassed the entire neighborhood, a fairly large geographic area representing 47 Census tracks. CIBS divided the neighborhood into five sub-areas (as detailed in the following map) to customize outreach efforts.
Within each sub-area, CIBS carved out individual outreach strategies to most effectively and efficiently engage residents based upon accessibility (i.e. – personal dwellings vs. apartment units) and proximity to public facilities and local institutions.
According to the final count, Bedford-Stuyvesant surpassed its 2000 community response reaching 50 percent, ten percentage points higher in 2010.
Here is how the count breaks down for each neighborhood sub-area:
- North East (NE) sub-area encompassing the three largest NYCHA developments in Bedford-Stuyvesant: Marcy, Tompkins and Sumner, boasts the highest sub-area response rate of 57%. Both Marcy and Sumner developments are cited as the Census tracks with the neighborhood’s highest response rate of 78%.
- South Central (SC) and South East (SE) sub-areas encompassing the brownstone community of Bedford-Stuyvesant including the Stuyvesant Heights Historic District have the lowest response rate in the neighborhood, with totals equaling 46% and 47%.
- North West (NW) and South West (SW) sub-areas bordering Clinton Hill ranked in the middle of response rates, with totals equaling 52% and 48%.
Clearly, civic commitment toward the Census count varied widely amongst different areas of the neighborhood.
Interestingly, the project housing developments showed the highest response rate, while the brownstone townhouse areas of the neighborhood reported the lowest.
What are the reasons behind these differences? Did the Census-takers concentrate their efforts in the projects as a means to gather more information in a shorter period of time? Were there fewer residents available during the day in the brownstone communities than in the projects? Or perhaps there simply was less interest in the reporting process in those areas with the lowest numbers.
In the coming months, CIBS plans to explore in greater detail why such neighborhood discrepancies exist, by taking a look at local demographics, including culture and linguistics, resident access and neighborhood engagement models.
Bed-Stuy Patch will continue to update you on these future findings from CIBS, as well as other important Census news.
*The above findings were compiled and submitted by Melissa Lee, Managing Director, CIBS