Demographic & Social Economic Profile

From: New Directions: A 197-A Plan for Manhattan Community district 11 (Revised 1999)


The demographic data in this chapter provides an initial overview of East Harlem. Comparisons between East Harlem, the Borough, and New York City reveal telling differences. In all socioeconomic factors, including unemployment, labor force participation and income, East Harlem lags behind both the borough and the city.

Many workers in East Harlem lack some of the skills necessary for jobs in the service sector. Moreover, where entry-level jobs in the service sector of the economy are available, they tend to be comparatively lower paying and offer fewer opportunities for advancement than blue collar jobs, especially for minorities.

East Harlem reached its historic population high of 210,000 in 1950. Since then, the population began a steady, and sometimes precipitous decline. Today, its population is 110,508. As Figure I indicates, the rate of population decreased dramatically during 1980-1990 as compared to previous decades


SOURCE: City of New York. Community District Needs Year 1993 Manhattan (New York: 1992)

After the fiscal crises of the 1970s, Manhattan slowly began to gain some of the population it had lost (up 4.1 percent from 1980 to 1990) as did New York City (up 3.5 percent from 1980 to 1990). East Harlem, however, continued its population decline (down 3.5 percent from 1980 to 1990).

In comparison to Manhattan and New York City, East Harlem has a significantly higher percentage of its population made up of young people. According to the 1990 U.S. Census, East Harlem contained 25,490 children of school age (ages 5-19) in 1990, comprising 23 percent of the District's total population. This compares to 14 percent of the total population for Manhattan and 19 percent for New York City.

Although the percentage of all youth under 20 years of age actually declined from 35.1 percent in 1980 to 31.2 percent in 1990, the percentage of children under five years of age has increased from 7.1 percent (in 1980) to 8.2 percent (in 1990), which represents an I I percent gain.

The percentage of residents over 65 years increased from 10.4 percent in 1980 to 11. 5 percent in 1990. Much of the increase was found in two categories: females over 65 years and all persons over 75 years. Nevertheless, the number and percentage of senior citizens in East Harlem, as well as the median age, are lower than found in the borough of Manhattan or New York City. The median age went up slightly from 29.4 years in 1980 to 30.6 years in 1990.

In keeping with the historic trend of succession and dispersal that has characterized the growth of
East Harlem, a dramatic shift has occurred in ethnic composition between 1970 and 1990. As Figure
2 shows, the population was roughly balanced in 1970 between three ethnic groups: whites, blacks
and Latinos. By 1990, Latinos, emerged as the predominant population with 53 percent, while blacks
grew to 39 percent. FIGURE 2

Although district-wide U.S. Census data describe East Harlem's diverse ethnicity, US Census tract data reveals population concentrations within the district. Map 2 (click here to see) shows that the northern portion of East Harlem (above 125th Street) has a predominantly black population, while the southern portion, known as Spanish Harlem or El Barrio, has a predominantly Latino population. The white population is Largely clustered in Census tracts located in the southwest comer of the community district near 96th Street and Central Park.

Within the Latino population there has also been a compositional shift. The number of Puerto Ricans has decreased slightly from 1980 to 1990. At the same time, non-Puerto Rican Latinos have almost doubled from 6,824 in 1980 to 12,161 in 1990.

Immigration data for this area confirms this change. The number of foreign born residents increased from 8.6 percent in 1980 to 11. 1 percent in 1990. There is one notable change in the foreign born population: in 1980, the majority of those foreign born were US citizens (61 percent), but in 1990 the majority of the those foreign born (62 percent) were not.

Caution must be used with all population data, since the 1990 U. S. Census count missed a significant number of immigrants unwilling to participate in the population count as well as in income reporting.

East Harlem also experienced a sharp decline in the number of housing units since 1950 (see Figure 3) while Manhattan and New York City have seen increases. Since 1950, the housing loss in East Harlem has paralleled the loss of population. The number of persons per housing unit began to

SOURCE: Department of City Planning. Socioeconomic Profiles: A Portrait of New York Citys Community Districts From 1980 & 1990 Censuses of Population and Housing (New York: 1993).

As overcrowding increased, the vacancy rate dropped from 11. 1 percent in 1980 to 5.6 percent in 1990.

Despite the pressure for apartments many are vacant. A 1997 survey of the eight avenues and five main cross streets sponsored by CIVITAS discovered 2,500 vacant apartments (usually above active ground level retail stores). 90% are owned privately. The CIVITAS survey also documented 9,444 units of new or rehabilitated housing by the not-for-profit community developers in East Harlem; almost all since 1968. An additional 2,141 were returned to the market by private developers, picking up the rehabilitation and construction "ball" passed on from the New York City Housing Authority!

More than one-third of
a households are female headed (37 percent).. This is more than double that of Manhattan and New York City.

Educational attainment statistics for East Harlem have shown considerable improvement, although they are still lower than rates for Manhattan and New York City (see Figure 4).

The percentage of East Harlem residents over 25 years of age who have graduated from high school has increased roughly 10 points from 1980 to 1990, During the same period, the proportion of college graduates has also risen from 7.5 to 11. 5 percent. The most significant change occurred in the number of persons with some college which increased by an impressive 74 percent. Although East Harlem residents have become more educated, people continue to have difficulty getting service sector jobs that require specialized skills or degrees.

The improvements in educational attainment are occurring simultaneously with notable positive changes in the districts public schools. While elementary schools have boasted significant increases in reading scores, intermediate schools have made dynamic changes in their structure by offering special programs and smaller classes.

SOURCE: Department of City Planning. Socioeconomic Profiles: A Portrait-of New York GIVE Community . Districts From 1280 & 1990 Censuses of Population and Housing (New York: 1993).

Calvert, G. Rebuilding Main Street in the village of East Harle CIVITAS, New York, p. 1

The widespread decrease in manufacturing jobs caused by structural shifts in the economy during the period of 1970 to 1990 affected all of New York City. This trend was especially severe in East Harlem where a greater proportion of workers were employed in "blue collar" trades.

According to the 1990 US Census, the majority of East Harlem workers were employed in the service industry (48 percent). Most of the service sector jobs were located in hospitals and health related institutions. From 1980 to 1990, the most striking rise in service sector jobs -- a 2.6 percentage point increase -occurred within the education sector.

Retail trade, which represents the second largest industry in East Harlem, dropped slightly from 12.6 percent in 1980 to 11. 7 percent in 1990. In 1990, the manufacturing establishments employed 11. 3 percent of East Harlem residents.

East Harlem, Manhattan and New York City have similar percentages of workers employed in the private sector at 71 percent, 78 percent and 76 percent respectively. Greater differences are evident in the number of residents employed in the public sector. East Harlem leads with 24 percent, compared to 12 percent for Manhattan and 18 percent for New York City. Among the self-employed, Manhattan leads with 10 percent, followed by New York City (6 percent) and East Harlem (4 percent).

The labor force participation rate' for East Harlem is 47.8 percent, compared to 66.3 percent for Manhattan and 61.7 percent for New York City. These rates represent increases for all three classifications since 1980, especially for females whose labor force participation rate has been steadily increasing over the past two decades.

The labor force participation of females over the age of 16 increased somewhat from 1970 (35 percent) to 1980 (36 percent) and by (41 percent) to 1990. Thirty-six percent of females 16 years or older and with children under age six are in the labor force -- an increase of 27 percent since 1980.


Total Unemployment

Labor Force Participation Rate is defined as the sum of employed and unemployed as a percentage of all persons 16 years and older.

The unemployment rate' for the district is 16 percent, twice the rate of Manhattan's 8 percent. The 1990 rate for this district rose 4 percentage points from 12 percent in 1980. In the same ten year period, the rate for the borough of Manhattan remained stable at 8 percent and increased only 1.3 points from 7.7 percent to 9 percent in New York City. (see Figure 6).

Unemployment is much higher among males (18 percent) than females (13 percent).

Since 1980, the number of unemployed mates in the district has increased by 52 percent and unemployed females by 33 percent.

Almost one-third of all East Harlem youth are unemployed -- a rate more than three times greater than that of the City. Nearly 1.4 percent (1, 126) of young people aged 16 to 19 are either not in school, not high school graduates, or not employed. While seemingly small, this percentage is more than twice that for New York City (0.6 percent) and more than three times that for Manhattan (0.4 percent).

Map 5 shows Children 18 and under by Census Tract. The highest unemployment for East Harlem is 28.9 percent for tract 204 in the Triangle; the lowest rate is 6.5 percent for tract 160.02 at the comer of 5th Avenue and 96th Street.

The per capita income of East Harlem increased from $6,939 in 1980 to $8,888 in 1990. The median household income increased from $12,235 in 1980 to $14,882 in 1990. Despite an increase of 22 percent, East Harlem's median income is lower than 50% of the median income of the Metropolitan area.

The statistical figures may not represent actual income for these reasons:

1) There is a significant "cash only" economy in the area, including stores;

2) One half of the households five in housing that demands annual certification by income. The consequences of reporting full income (such as a second or third wage earner) would mean a raise in rents or even eviction;

3) A significant number of residents are undocumented and avoid census reporting,

Forty percent of the households receive public assistance as compared to 19% in Manhattan and New York City.

The Unemployment Rate is defined as those seeking employment as a percentage of the sum of those employed and those seeking employment.

Other Sections of the 197-A Plan

History of East Harlem
Demographic and Socio-Economic Profile
Land Use and Zoning
City-Owned Vacant Property
Housing and Urban Renewal
Economic Development
The Waterfront
Tranportation and Infrastructure
Institutional and Historical Resources
Non-Profits At Work In East Harlem
For Profits At Work In East Harlem

Maps (all pertain to Community Board # 11)
The maps are in Gif format. File sizes are big, but you can better see the details in the maps.

Community Board District # 11 (162K)
Population of Race and Ethnicity by Census Track (679K
Land Use (Color 579K)
Zoning Map (244K)
Major Housing Developments (329K)
Urban Renewal Areas (328K)
Empowerment Zone (630K)
Economic Developement (628K)
Public Transportation (672K)
Historic District and Landmarks (610K)
Crossroads (589K)


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