Long Island Historical Census Atlas

Long Island's Transformation: 1970-2010

Long Island's Transformation: 1970-2010

By 1970, most of the great migration from New York City to Long Island had already taken place. From 1950 to 1970, the combined population of Nassau and Suffolk more than doubled in size, growing by over 1.6 million people as suburban development had pushed well into central Suffolk County. In the forty years that followed, however, the island's population grew by less than 300,000 (from Regional Plan Association, Jan. 2015 / PDF).

The Center for Urban Research (CUR) has mapped Long Island's population changes from 1970 to 2010, revealing that this modest increase in total population masked dramatic changes in its composition.  Our maps, at historiccensus.longislandindexmaps.org , visualize these changes over the recent past and provide the foundation for anticipating and shaping Long Island's future growth.

Animated snapshot of the LI Historical Census map

Long Island Index: projecting into the future

The Long Island Index asked CUR to create the LI Historical Census Atlas to show population patterns by Census tract for close to 40 variables - including race/ethnicity, age, household composition, education, income, poverty, and employment. The maps accompany a report commissioned by the Index suggesting ways to improve Long Island’s economy and housing options.

Innovative map features & data

The maps include innovative features such as:

  • hovering over the map to see detailed charts/graphs,
  • using a timeline slider to switch the mapped patterns from one decade to the next (or any decade in between), and
  • incorporating Census data going back to 1970 (the maps use data from the relatively new National Historic GIS project, as well as the “Longitudinal Tract Database” from Brown University).  

Some of the changes portrayed by the maps are striking.  You can visualize how:

  • manufacturing jobs have dramatically fallen away,
  • race/ethnicity patterns have been transformed,
  • household composition is steadily changing,
  • Long Island’s population is “ageing out”,
  • while education levels are steadily rising though poverty is stubbornly persistent. 

A separate report from the Regional Plan Association (PDF) discusses the implications of the maps.