From the desk of Jack Schnirman: Make Nassau count: Making sure our hard-to-count communities are counted in the 2020 Census

The Island Now
Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman (Photo courtesy of the Nassau County Comptroller's Office)

Communities across Nassau County are changing fast. The demographic profile our office developed highlighted new challenges the County faces so that we can deliver the right services in the right way to everyone in Nassau. 

According to research from several different organizations, in 15 years, Nassau County is on track to become a majority-minority County. This is a nationwide trend, but here in Nassau it’s happening faster.

We have a much different population than the post-WWII suburban developments that sprouted up across Long Island, like Levittown. They were built to cater to the needs of largely single income families headed by young professionals.

One only needs to look around to see that Nassau County has changed dramatically. We are older and more diverse. 

These changes don’t happen seamlessly, as our recent report on Black Economic Equity showed. We put together reports like these not to point fingers but to turn conversations into action. Because action is needed.

Research highlighted by Policy Link and UrbanLeague of Long Island shows that the Long Island economy could have been nearly $24 billion stronger in 2014 if racial gaps in income were eliminated. 

And as the county ages and the size of Nassau’s senior citizen population grows, our young people are leaving Long Island for perceived greener pastures with more affordable housing options and transit-oriented, walkable downtown communities that better suit their lifestyles. 

This “brain drain” has real impacts — without foreign immigration, Nassau would have lost population in recent years.

A shrinking population would negatively impact the economy and make it even harder for young people to rent or purchase a home; start a family; and spend their earnings to live, work, and play in the county.

While educated young people leave, there’s an influx of immigrant groups reshaping local communities.

Nassau County’s minority population reached 38 percent in 2016, up from 30% in 2005. South Asian, Caribbean, and Central American groups are bringing their unique cultures to communities from Great Neck to Elmont to Hicksville. And as our population changes, our needs change as well. 

Nassau County has dramatically changed since the last decade, and we have a huge opportunity with the 2020 Census to make sure that we get our fair share of funding to support a population that is changing every day.

The Census will provide real challenges as more than 300,000 of Nassau County’s population live in communities that are “Hard to Count.” Some of the hardest-to-count populations include young children, communities of color, and low-income households.

With Nassau County becoming more diverse and harder to count for the Census, we must make sure we get a complete, accurate count so we receive the funding needed to provide the services everyone in Nassau relies on.

The planning has already started with the Nassau Complete Count Committee, a collaboration between government, non-profits, and community groups to make sure we can fully capture the incredible changes that have happened in Nassau County.

Working together, we will ensure everyone is counted, that we effectively plan for the future, and that we continue delivering the best services to our residents.

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