Morning Read: North Country sees shifts in population, no overall decline

The latest population numbers are out from the US Census showing in much greater detail what kinds of gains and losses are being seen inside New York state.

It’s fascinating stuff, and the data I’m referencing here comes from two maps, one produced by the New York State Association of Counties and the other (much more interactive) by the New York Times.

Here are some compelling take-aways:

First, Hamilton County continues its dangerous slide in population, losing 10% of its year-round residents over the last decade.  The entire county has just 4,836 people.

(It’s important to note that Hamilton County never had very many people; so losing 10% of the population means losing a few hundred people.  Significant locally, but a blip when measured against New York’s 19.3 million people.)

A second and perhaps more surprising reality is that much of the North Country region is holding its own, or even growing slightly, in population.

Clinton County grew by 2.8%, faster than the state of New York as a whole.  Warren County was up 3.8%.

Compared with Western New York which saw widespread losses, our region looks fairly steady.

Essex County — which like Hamilton is a county contained entirely within the Adirondack Park — grew at 1.3%.

Some other fascinating bits of micro-data:

In Franklin County, the population of Native Americans grew by 20% as the Mohawk Reservation community continues to expand.  Native Americans now make up 7% of the county’s total population.

Jefferson County continues to boom, largely because of Fort Drum, and now boasts a population of 116,229.

It’s also our most ethnically diverse county, with just 86% of the community white.  (Again, that looks a little different in context.  In New York state as a whole only 58% of the community is white.)

Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a statement about these numbers,suggesting that they show a need to follow his lead politically:

“The Census figures released today offer stark evidence of the lack of growth in certain regions as well as ongoing stagnation.

“We must correct the trajectory of the state by changing the financial and operational paradigm of our government.

My budget and the agenda I have put forward charts that new course and it is important, now more than ever, that we follow through on it.”

So take a few minutes to navigate these maps and then give your own read.  Do these numbers show the North Country receiving a passing grade?  Comments welcome below.


32 Comments on “Morning Read: North Country sees shifts in population, no overall decline”

  1. tootightmike says:

    Populations grow, and sometimes they shrink, and when they shrink, we are too quick to call it a bad thing. If people have pulled up stakes to follow a job, or move to a better economy, so be it. It’s better than sitting forever on unemployment and welfare, insisting that the work come to you.
    The real problems come from systems (like schools and governments) that don’t have an easy mechanism for shrinking to match their populations, or highway departments that keep up roads with fewer people living on them. Some energy and thought should go toward building in some elasticity in our systems.

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  2. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    The Post Star has links on its site as well. The link showing local counties and towns is clunky but there is interesting information to be mined there. Are our localities following a trend toward less rural sprawl? For instance, in Warren County Queensbury is growing while Chester and Johnsburg are shrinking.

    And look at Saratoga County. Corinth is growing even though it lost the IP mill.

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  3. John Warren says:

    I guess “a shift in population, no overall decline” is a just a funny way to say that we’ve seen a population increase?

    It seems like pandering to the chicken little crowd who has been crowing about the “endangered Adirondacker” and all the rest of the nonsense.

    My guess this fact will quietly fade away, since it doesn’t fit the standard local media line.

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  4. anotherboater says:

    I agree the title of the posting is weird.

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  5. Pete Klein says:

    I imagine, haven’t checked yet, that while Hamilton County has lost year-round residents, it hasn’t lost but has increased the number of part-time residents.
    These part-timers do pay taxes, thank you very much, but also require services. Maybe they don’t send their kids to the local schools but they do need fire/ambulance and all the infrastructure provided by town and country governments.
    Beware of consolidating or eliminating the local school districts because if that were to happen, the year-round population will drop even faster and result in a death spiral for all services expected by part-timers and visitors.
    Penny wise would be extremely pound foolish.

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  6. tourpro says:

    Numbers are still skewed by prison populations.

    Census Tract 1004: Whites 68% Blacks 21% (Dannemora)

    while neighboring

    Census Tract 1018: Whites 97% Blacks 0% (Redford)

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  7. mary says:

    BTW, I am counted as a resident of Broome and Franklin as I did the census forms for both. Not sure how they divided me up between the two.
    Oddly, Broome lost no population either.

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  8. theotherone says:

    I think you broke the law.

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  9. theotherone says:

    “How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2010? ”

    So you must have stayed in 2 houses on the same day? Did it not occur to you that you may get counted twice? This is why its so hard to count people in our Idiocracy.

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  10. Brian says:

    John –

    When I write headlines, I work to make sure that they’re factually accurate. This one was.

    I also assume that In Box readers plan to actually read the blog post. (These aren’t Russian novels, after all…)

    My post points specifically to parts of the North Country where population growth exceeds that of New York state as a whole.

    I make the point that the fairly dramatic percentage losses of population in Hamilton County don’t represent a whole lot of people.

    Perhaps most importantly, I link to the maps with the pertinent data allowing readers to mine the data and I asked them to share their own conclusions.

    That’s not ‘pandering.’ That’s a conversation.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  11. Mervel says:

    I think those maps are great thanks for posting them.

    If you just stand back and look at the shift of the whole US, NYS is not booming in population like some of the West, Southwest and Florida, but at the same time its not really declining.

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  12. Paul says:

    This is very interesting. We are often having the debate on how the Adirondacks fair in relation to other parts of the state. Here are some answers in regard to population trends. Essex (1.35%), St. Lawrence (0.0%), Franklin (0.9%) and Hamilton at (-10%) are all well below the state average. Three counties that have part of their land within the Adirondacks and part outside the park grew, Herkimer (0.2%), Clinton by 2.8%, Warren by 3.8%, and Saratoga by a whopping 9.5%. The question now is did the population grow in the part of the county outside the park or inside the park? John Warren you know these areas, what parts of Warren and Saratoga counties are seeing population increases?

    In general NY looks a lot like West Virginia on this map.

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  13. mary says:

    The census included a question that asked if you lived in two places and what percentage of the time. You are suppose to fill that out at each residences if you live there.

    So for you folks that don’t want to count summer or weekenders — don’t use the US census if you want to leave them out of the numbers.

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  14. mary says:

    sorry for the garbled sentence — trying to finish up work so I can go to my other residence!

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  15. mary says:

    FYI here is the reasoning for allowing someone to be counted for two residences

    —HOUSEHOLD AND RESIDENCE: These are determined by where people live or sleep most of the time as of April 1. Household members should include babies born on or before April 1, 2010, as well as non-U.S. citizens. The rationale is that cities and states should receive federal money to support everyone who uses their public roads, schools and other programs.

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  16. mary says:

    According to the definition above, the Adirondacks is losing population due to all the snowbirds being away for the time period they are counting. I just happened to be in residence as I like the mud season.

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  17. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Paul, you can look some of this up yourself. I’m posting the link because it was on the Post Star front page yesterday but hard to find today.

    This is only for Essex, Hamilton, Saratoga, Warren and Washiington counties.

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  18. Paul says:

    kuck, thanks. The APA also has a map for the 200 census data that is excellent. It has numbers for just the parts of towns that lie within the blue line. Once they make a new one from the 2010 data we will have a good idea of what is going on.

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  19. Mervel says:

    According to the map the counties in the Adirondacks have not lost population in the past 10 years with the exception of Hamilton Cty.

    I think another map or data that is interesting is county poverty rates for a gauge of how counties are doing inside and outside of the Park.

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  20. John Warren says:


    Am I missing something here? What “shift in population” are you taking about here for the North Country aside from growth?

    I think your title (which, BTW, matters as it’s the only thing about this story carried through the rest of the internets) is stretching to say the least.

    Why not a title that is accurate and clear about what is happening? Let’s say “North Country Sees Slight Population Increase” or “Most of North Country Sees Slight Population Increase”.

    Even if this post was only about Hamilton County, which seems to have lost about 500 full-time residents, but probably gained as many or more summer-residents, I don’t see how this title would be accurate.

    No where in that title does it say what actually is happening – an increase in the North Country population.

    Obviously, linking to the map is the appropriate way to handle this, but your title has apparently attempted to frame the conversion away from the fact that our population is rising.

    Besides, if you take the suburban demographic out of the picture, the North Country is growing considerably faster than the state average, and either way, it appears as though the North Country is growing faster than other rural NY areas.

    The buried (rather non-existent) lede here would make the most accurate title – “North Country Growing Faster Than Other Rural NY Areas”

    This is, after all, what the critics of the APRAP report have been arguing for some time.

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  21. Brian Mann says:

    John –

    Yes, you are missing something.

    You are viewing this blog post as part of your ongoing argument over the validity of the APRAP report.

    But I wasn’t discussing the APRAP report.

    I was noting some interesting trends in the latest Census numbers, which I described both accurately and factually.

    (My headline was no less accurate than the rest of the post, but I think it’s patently ridiculous to suggest that headlines should be written as stand-alone content. That’s what Tweets are for…)

    To your specific questions:

    I spend a significant amount of my post noting the reality “that much of the North Country region is holding its own, or even growing slightly, in population.”

    I note that some counties are growing faster than the state of New York as a whole, and that we’re faring better than Western New York.

    I explain specifically what I mean by mentioning some big “shifts” in these Census numbers, including the growth of the Mohawk population in northern Franklin County and the continuing boom at Fort Drum.

    Again, I understand that I didn’t write the polemic article that you wanted to see. But my job isn’t to write the post you would have written.

    My job is to be accurate and factual and as thoughtful as possible, while hopefully prompting some good discussion.

    Hopefully that discussion is based on what I’ve actually written, not on what other bloggers might prefer for me to say.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  22. John Warren says:


    Obviously we disagree. But two quick points.

    Suggesting I am after some political points on the APRAP study is wrong, I’m after an accurate headline that reflects this story. This story, no matter how it’s spun, is that the North Country had an increase in population, more than other rural areas in the state. Your headline doesn’t say that, in fact “no overall decline” implies that there is a decline, but it’s not widespread.

    Secondly, a minor point getter farther afield. Your headlines go much farther than this story ever will (through RSS, e-mail, Facebook, and Tweets). That headline will be read by a vast majority of people who will never click through to read the story. It IS the content for most people who will experience this story – the most read content of your entire post. That’s why it’s important.

    And OK, one more – you can’t want a conversation and then rule “what other bloggers might prefer for me to say” out of that conversation.

    Thanks for this conversation – the sun is shining, and that’s my cue to quite arguing with you .

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  23. Walker says:

    Looking at the data state-wide suggests to me that the claims that New York’s tax rates are responsible for the state losing population is simply false. The places that are losing population are rust-belt areas, not the highest tax areas. In other words, it’s jobs, jobs, jobs, not the mantra we always hear these days: taxes, taxes, taxes.

    And what that suggests to me is that the state should rebuild its crumbling infrastructure by taxing the wealthy.

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  24. scratchy says:

    “This story, no matter how it’s spun, is that the North Country had an increase in population, more than other rural areas in the state.”

    I think the rural and semi-rural areas in the Fingerlakes grew faster than the North Country (Ithaca-Seneca Falls-Geneva area.) Also, which area gew faster in the North Country, Park areas or non-Parl areas? Hard to tell at this point, but I’m guessing non-Park areas based on the Hamilton county (a Park county) and Jefferson (non-park county) numbers. Essex, the other complete Park county had slight growth, though it’s hard to tell about the partially Park areas. I’m guessing much of Franklin county’s growth occurred outside of the Park, based on the fact that the Native American population -which live primarily outside the park- experienced rapid growth. The other partially Park counties, have primarily non-Park populations.

    The Hamilton county numbers are revealing. Hamilton is really in the heart of the park with vast state holdings and strictly zoned resource management areas. Very little hamlet areas, exept for maybe a few acres of Inlet and Speculator. Essex has more commercial areas defined as “hamlets” where growth is possible (Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Ticonderoga). Hamilton county really represents where some environmentalists want to go with more strict regulations.

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  25. John Warren says:

    Walker, I agree.

    The population is leaving rust belt cities, and also rural areas that are not the Adirondacks and are headed to the vibrant cities and their suburbs. Like rural areas outside the Adirondacks, those places with few jobs, and what one might consider a unappealing physical and cultural environment, are losing people.

    Take a look at Schenectday and Troy for example (which after 30 years of being ignored, have both recently had a high amount of creative class oriented development in historic downtowns), compared to Utica, Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo.

    Places that have been “burnt over” – areas with large abandoned post industrial wastelands – are in the decline. Those that have preserved (either intentionally or not), their old factories, and downtowns are communities that attract new development.

    I think it might indicate that if people can’t have good jobs, they at least want good lifestyle (cafes, culture, mountains, and streams).

    It’s never set right with me, this claim that people want to move out of the Adirondacks, because outside newly re-emerging vibrant cities, it’s the only place with anything left to offer.

    I think that as always, young people have to leave the Adirondacks, but many (and others) return – the new people living here now, were young and living somewhere else in the past.

    None of this has anything to do with taxes. And it doesn’t have anything to do with housing developments like Big Tupper either. Neither of those things convince people to move to one of the areas on the rise.

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  26. John Warren says:

    Scratchy –

    In the 70 years between 1930 and 2000 New York State’s population grew by 50% and Northern New York’s by about 35%. Even in the most remote Adirondack towns, those 62 located entirely within the Blue Line, the population grew by 13%.

    Development in the less remote Adirondack towns is much more robust, not because of zoning (which most people probably don’t consider in housing purchases anyway), but becuase these are becoming bedroom communities for highly developed areas. take a look at Glens Falls / Queensbury on that NY Times map for example.

    Development pressure is greatest in the 30 border towns, which have grown by 142% over the same 70 years, a rate far above the state or national average. Add in seasonal residents and the number is much higher.

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  27. scratchy says:

    John Warren says:
    “Development pressure is greatest in the 30 border towns, which have grown by 142% over the same 70 years, a rate far above the state or national average.”

    But in what part of the Border towns? The inner parts or the outside the Blue Line parts?

    It’s true that most people don’t research a localities zoning laws before they buy a house, but strict zoning laws do increase the price of housing by restricting the supply of land you can develop. Higher house prices make an area less attractive, everything else being equal. Look at the declining enrollment in school district like Webb, where local tourist jobs do not pay enough to make owning a house affordable.

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  28. John Warren says:

    Scratchy –

    It’s true that there is declining enrollment – that is the trend in almost every school district in America outside those fewer communities that are seeing enormous growth. We have declining enrollment now because we had an enrollment explosion with the baby boomers and their children. Birth rates are falling, and so too is the need for school systems built to support baby boomer families.

    There is no restriction of developable land. In fact, given our current economic situation, there is more land than ever and at reasonable prices compared to those suburbs I was talking about. Of course, every thing is NOT equal, but if that wasn’t the case (if we were just another rural area) we would have rock bottom housing prices and a declining population as well. The main problem with housing is not that it’s too high, its that wages are stuck at the level of 1970 – how can young people afford 2010 houses on 1970 wages? They can’t. Older people can scale back, sell out their assets, go into credit card debt, to buy a home in the Adirondacks. Young people don’t have those “luxuries.”

    More to the point a study of actual APA permitting during the period 1990-1999 found that the agency regulated just 20% of development activities inside the blue line. The rest – 80%, mind you – were handled by local governments. Not to mention that the APA approves nearly every single application.

    During that decade the APA denied just FIVE applications, out of nearly 4,000 (177 were officially withdrawn and just over 200 were either pending or subject to additional information requests). If the blue line has something to do with population as you suggest, it’s because local leaders and the media have led them to believe that their rights will be trampled inside the Blue Line. Both the APA numbers and the population numbers prove those folks to have been wrong all along. [That’s part of why I was so annoyed with Brian’s headline here.]

    As far as where the development in border towns is located, we can’t tell because the APRAP study didn’t publish that info. I think I know why.
    Look at the APRAP numbers (1950-2006): The Town of Chester has grown by 92%, Thurman 153%, Stony Creek 75%, Johnsburg 29% – population losses are heavily weighted by just a handful of towns: Newcomb, Clifton, Piercefield, Moriah, and Essex – the only towns that have seen over a 20 percent decrease in population, all totally within the Park.

    By far, most towns in the Adirondacks have seen population growth over 20%. Twice as many towns completely within the Adirondacks have seen growth over 100%, that’s not including border towns. Fred Monroe and his APRAP buddies used those five anomaly towns to weigh the data in their favor. See! We’re losing population! It’s all the fault of zoning!

    I suspect that a look at the border towns closely would show that it doesn’t matter on which side of the Blue Line you are on – those towns are growing because of the expansion of urban and suburban areas to the south, not people making some kind of choice to purchase land or a home on one side of the blue line or the other. As I think we both agree, people don’t look at a house and then say, we’ll what the zoning situation here?

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  29. Mervel says:

    Looking North I think you would find the inverse relationship. St. Lawrence County, Northern Franklin County, Northern Clinton County areas outside of the Park are doing worse economically than those in the Park. The Park is helping economic development in those cases, not hurting it in my opinion.

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  30. RationalandLogical says:

    These population figures are in FACT very telling and are not positive news for the Adirondack communities. And in terms of Mr. Warren’s comments, as soon as one wonders just how misinformed Mr. Warren is, he puts a comment like the one earlier in writing and all doubt is removed.

    The details of the 2010 count are not fully released but to this point the geographic distribution of growth and decline is alarming. Many more census tracts across the region are declining than gaining. Most of the growth is very concentrated among a few tracts.

    Furthermore, the “holding its own” tag line is also not good news. And this is not chicken little alarmism. Rather it is based in quantifiable facts. Consider the population increase state-wide of 2.3%. Then consider the comparative growth in municipal, county and state government expenses and the corresponding taxes as revenue to meet these costs. The growth in expenses and corresponding tax rates far exceed the paltry and geographically sporadic growth demonstrated in the 2010 census. We are loosing fiscal balance and that is why you are seeing jarring cuts in public service providers (school and government). These numbers have consequences that we are only seeing the beginning of. Cuts in public employment will continue for at least several years. The fact is we need to have growth at 8-9% at least to keep pace with the past and current growth in cost. Population growth or decline ultimately determines the pace of the economy. Strong growth is needed to fuel demand for goods and services and that ultimately drives employment. And all the facts concerning the census are not here yet, wait till you see how these numbers breakdown by age….

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  31. Paul says:

    If you are satisfied with how things are going, as it appears some folks here are, than you are satisfied. If you are not, than you are not. Parts of NYS are thriving, and parts of NYS are dying. Same goes for the Adirondacks.

    NYS is clawing it’s way along because people like us are crazy enough to stick around!

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  32. John Warren says:

    I can’t help but add three recent stories from other local news outlets reporting on this same information that really show how warped the headline and general tone of this piece are:

    From North Country Now:

    Ten of 12 counties in Adirondacks gained population in past decade

    From WAMC:

    Population Growing in Adirondacks

    From WNBZ:

    Green group credits Blue Line for population boost

    It would be nice if at there was at least some acknowledgment that the headline of this piece, “North Country sees shifts in population, no overall decline” was off the mark.

    “No Overall Decline” is not, as I indicated above, “Population Growing in Adirondacks”.

    The population is growing in the Adirondacks. It’s time to set the record straight.

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