Upstate New York’s Population Plateau: The Third-Slowest Growing ‘State’


An analysis of population and migration data for the 52 counties of Upstate New York
between 1980 and 2000 finds that:

  • Upstate New York’s population grew
    by a mere 1.1 percent in the 1990s,
    slower than the growth rate of every
    state but West Virginia and North
    Upstate is part of a larger stagnant
    region, stretching from parts of
    New England to northern West Virginia,
    that grew less than 1 percent, compared
    to over 13 percent in the U.S. as a whole.
  • Within Upstate New York, only two
    regions grew in the 1990s.
    north of New York City through Albany
    and Saratoga, the Hudson Valley region
    is Upstate’s fastest growing area, followed
    by the Rochester/Finger Lakes
    region. In contrast, Western New York,
    home of Buffalo-Niagara Falls, continues
    to decline, evidenced by a loss of
    over 22,000 residents during the
  • Overall, more people moved out of
    Upstate than moved in during the
    Between 1990 and 2002, over
    1.7 million people moved out of Upstate
    New York, while only 1.3 million moved
    in. The majority of out-migrants moved
    to states in the South and Northeast.
    The biggest migration flows into
    Upstate’s regions came from within
    the state.
  • Nearly 30 percent of new residents in
    Upstate New York in the 1990s were
    Upstate gained 21,000 new
    prisoners during the decade, an increase that was accompanied by a
    growing number of prison staff, as well
    as inmates’ relatives. Upstate has a
    larger share of prisoners than the nation
    as a whole—1.1 percent of its population
    in 2000, compared to just 0.7
    percent of the U.S. population.
  • Upstate’s large senior citizen population
    increased in size and share,
    especially in its slow growing regions,
    in the 1990s.
    Fourteen percent of
    Upstate’s residents in 2000 were 65 or
    over, compared to 12 percent nationwide.
    Western New York had the largest
    share of seniors, at 16 percent, up from
    15 percent in 1990. Newburgh, in the
    Hudson Valley region, was the only
    Upstate metropolitan area where the
    share of seniors actually fell in the
    1980s and 1990s.
  • Upstate’s small racial and ethnic
    minority population is unevenly distributed
    among its metropolitan areas
    and segregated within them.
    Upstate New York remains primarily
    white, its share of black and Hispanic
    residents increased by 17.6 and 54 percent,
    respectively, during the 1990s,
    reflecting trends in much of the country.
    Beyond the metropolitan areas
    closest to New York City, Buffalo and
    Rochester are Upstate’s most diverse
    regions, though their racial and ethnic
    minorities are highly segregated.