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Report deplores population drain

A state government association released a report on New York's demographic trends Wednesday in an effort to raise the level of urgency about the population losses suffered throughout the state.

The policy brief issued by the New York State Association of Counties, an association of the state's 62 counties, is an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau estimates released earlier this year.

The numbers are sobering.

The Empire State saw its population grow just 1.7 percent since the start of the decade, compared with the national rate of 6.4 percent.

Twenty-nine of the state's 62 counties lost population since 2000 -- 28 of them from upstate. And no other county in the state lost more people during that period than Erie County -- a loss of 28,875, or an average loss of 4,800 people a year.

"The population estimates released this year must serve as a wake-up call," said Stephen J. Acquario, executive director of the association. "Government leaders at all levels should work with business and academic leaders to address this apparent shift in our population."

Population figures are used to help calculate federal funding for state and local governments and determine representation, so unless New York can reverse its trend of stagnant growth, it faces losing significant aid and resources, the association warns.

Following the 2000 census, for example, New York lost two congressional seats. By the time the 2010 results are tabulated, the state could lose two more congressional seats and be passed by Florida as the third-largest state in the nation, according to the report.

"There is a tremendous amount at stake," Acquario said, "and we face long-term consequences if these estimates hold up."

The policy brief was sent to state and local leaders throughout New York. The report encourages officials to take a more aggressive role during the 2010 census by preparing an updated list of residential addresses to help ensure an accurate count.

More immediately, the report encourages municipalities to determine the accuracy of recent Census Bureau estimates, which can be challenged if proven to be grossly inaccurate.

The full report is available online at www.nysac.org/doc-uments/PopulationShuffle.pdf.

e-mail: jrey@buffnews.com

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