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Newly released Census data shows population increase for Erie County, Buffalo

A map of Erie County
U.S. Census Bureau

The population of Erie County is up, but a prominent local social researcher said the new U.S. Census data released Thursday shows not much has changed for African Americans.

Henry Louis Taylor Jr. runs the University at Buffalo's Center for Urban Studies and is a professor of Urban and Regional Planning. He spends his life dealing with the numbers that image our society, and the Census is lots and lots of numbers.

A quick look of Erie County shows a growing county, to 918,702 residents, after decades of shrinkage. Erie is the only county in Western New York to grow. The median household income is $60,652, while 13.3% of people live in poverty and the employment rate is 60.9%. Almost 14% of residents are Black or African American alone, while another 2.3% identify as two or more races.

The City of Buffalo has also grown, to 255,300 residents. The median household income is $40,843, while 28.8% live in poverty and the employment rate is 50.7%. Just over 37% of the city is Black or African American alone, while another 3.5% identify as two or more races.

The professor said there is little in the new figures that surprises him, partially because the Census Bureau also studies social data between the decennial Census collections, and that data is out there.

Taylor said there is constant turnover in the white community, but the same structure stays.

"The structures that we have created are reproducing their positionality at the top of society. So no matter who is in the White House, metaphorically, the systems that we have in place are producing certain outcomes," Taylor said.

Taylor said one thing that hasn't changed is that Black residents are concentrated in Buffalo.

"78% of all Erie County Blacks live in the central city. A substantial number of Blacks who have moved out of the city are also situated in the lowest valley suburbs in the city," Taylor said. "There hasn't been a lot of Black movement out of the city in the last 30 years. I think in 2000, there was something like 100,000 Black people, around 94,000 now. So there hasn't been a lot of movement in and out of the city."

Taylor said the Black community remains economically troubled and still located east of Main Street, with not much movement beyond the Buffalo city line.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.