By Gregory Conley:
Quite often we hear from people of a decreasing population, employment, and eroding tax base. We hear that Buffalo, NY is in the past and can’t come back. We hear it is bleeding a wound that will never heal.
Well it’s time to shut those people up.
Recently, I have been using two great tools to examine different geographic data sets. One is a great mapping system through the US Census online, called On The Map
. This system allows users to analyze employment within a variety of divisions from region to census tract. The other tool I used is Telestrian (Telestrian.com), an amazing tool that easily compiles data on an assortment of topics from education to income, to gender to age, to much more. I focused primarily on the Buffalo’s city proper, and found some very positive results.
It’s not the wealthy people leaving the City.
In Buffalo and in other Great Lakes cities, we often try to appease and entice the wealthy to stay and/or move to the City proper. We worry so much about losing this higher income bracket, we may lose sight of what is in front of our face.
Low income residents are the ones moving out of the City, Big Time.
Below are two maps of employed residents based on where they live from 2002 and 2010. As you can see, most of the areas east of Main with higher employment numbers rapidly eroded away in this 8 year span. Click on graphics to enlarge.
Now let’s look at lower income, which are workers making $1,250 per month or less.
As you can see, areas east of Main Street have rapidly eroded away. Most notably, Polonia, Emerson, Parade Park, and Grider neighborhoods have been vacated by this income bracket. And as you can also see, this income bracket is not concentrating in new areas, but purely leaving the City.
It should also be noted that this is a similar, yet less marked pattern for those who make $1,251 to $3,332 per month.
Finally, where are all the wealthy people living? Well, that’s getting bigger.
Wealth has stayed and grown in places like North Park and Starin in North Buffalo, but wealth is also expanding toward Downtown. The traditional neighborhood, Bryant is getting wealthier, connecting with Allentown, and moving toward the Ellicott rectangle of Downtown. In more modern nomenclature, the Elmwood Village is expanding and getting wealthier, moving south.
So, as you can see, Buffalo residents are getting wealthier. While slightly verbose in explanation, the people leaving are low income. It should be asserted that low income residents are not really moving out due to gentrification, but other reasons such as violence, education, or loss of employment. However, considering the Buffalo-Niagara Metro evaded much of the horrors of the Great Recession, I have serious doubts that people left the city solely due to lack of employment.
Buffalo is smarter.
As we see this marked decrease in lower income residents in the City proper, the other question is education attainment. Are the people leaving intellectually valuable, and is the City of Buffalo failing to find employment for this workforce?
While blame could be doled out in a number of ways as to why certain neighborhoods lack educational attainment, this is to show by what number of the population has the education attainment of the City changed.
Using Telestrian (Telestrian.com
), I compiled data sets, comparing educational attainment from 2000 to 2010. Below is a chart, showing the difference of residents in major New York Cities who have less than a high school degree from 2000 to 2010.
Change of Population with Less than High School Attainment, Major Cities in New York
Here, Buffalo is shedding the highest number of this education attainment bracket at a whopping -37.05%! It should also be said, whether positive or negative, that Bufalo is shedding those with high school degrees, and those with some college experience. However those numbers are are -10.47% and -2.31% respectively. Not nearly as drastic as the change listed above.
For those who say there should be comparisons of metropolitan areas, it won’t
be included here, but the metro is not losing nearly as much residents with less than a high school degree. This means that those residents of this bracket are probably moving into first ring suburbs such as Tonawanda, Amherst, and Cheektowaga.
While Buffalo is losing the less educated, The Queen City is gaining with those who have Bachelor’s and Graduate or Professional Degrees. Outside of New York City, Buffalo has the highest increase of residents with Bachelor’s Degrees from 2000 to 2010.
Change of Population with a Bachelor’s Degree, Major Cities in New York
And let’s also compare the city proper to other Great Lakes cities in terms of Bachelor’s degree attainment.
Change of Population with a Bachelor’s Degree, Major Cities in Great Lakes
Buffalo is now breaking away from Detroit and Cleveland, and moving toward Pittsburgh and Columbus.
One of our more modern nicknames for Buffalo is the City of No Illusions. However what I see is that there are people in and around this city perpetuating a damaging illusion of failure and mediocrity. When in actuality, Buffalo is on the verge of a comeback. It’s not a Detroit. It’s a Pittsburgh.
Buffalo is breaking from the Rust Belt, and joining the ranks of research centers to become a smarter city. It sees a role in multiple industrial clusters such as life sciences, advanced machinery, transportation and logistics due its international border, and also a potentially new cluster forming from the University at Buffalo’s establishment of a Center for Excellence in Nanomaterials. The Queen City has also taken advantage of its cross border trade to move toward becoming a center of commercialization for products developed in the Greater Toronto Area. And most importantly, people are starting to realize that they want to not only work in this kind of environment, but want to live there too.
Buffalo is on a comeback, are you a part of it?
Gregory Conley is a graduate of the University at Buffalo’s Graduate School of Education in English as a Second Language Education, M.Ed. His interests include expanding equality to access in education, learning about the ethnic histories of Buffalo, and urban planning. If you missed Greg’s last article on Crowd Sourcing, click here.