Introduction

Understanding the demographics of Central New York can help better illustrate the changing and diversifying needs our region faces, while shedding more insight and awareness on the make-up of individuals and populations within our community.

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Central New York residents are thought to skew older, as many young people leave for warmer climates or to seek career opportunities. In reality, local indicators point to a median age of 38 in the five county region. By examining the average ages of our residents, we can estimate future needs for adequate eldercare and housing as they grow older.

The primary languages spoken in our region are heavily influenced by our growing refugee population. Between 2000 and 2014, Syracuse welcomed nearly 11,000 refugees. In 2016 alone, Onondaga County welcomed 1,460 new refugees. With this growing population comes unique challenges – from language barriers to school readiness. But with it also comes economic development and enhancements to our neighborhoods’ cultural fabric.

These demographic indicators point to the uniqueness of the local population and can be used to influence planning for the services residents may need today and tomorrow.

Age Distribution

Age Distribution by Gender - Onondaga County

Age Distribution by Gender - Madison County

Age Distribution by Gender - Oswego County

Age Distribution by Gender - Cayuga County

Age Distribution by Gender - Cortland County

Age Distribution by Gender - Syracuse

Age Distribution by Gender - Oneida

Age Distribution by Gender - Oswego City

Age Distribution by Gender - Auburn

Age Distribution by Gender - Cortland City

Let's Break It Down

Our youngest cohorts are concentrated in cities.

Central New York’s youngest populations reside in the region’s metropolitan areas. In Syracuse, the number of females aged 25-29 exceed males by about 625 people. The largest gap in the region is in Cortland, where the number of females aged 19-21 outweigh males by almost 1,500 people.

In all five counties, males and females aged 50-54 represent the largest age group. This could be attributed to the area’s population decline resulting from younger adults leaving the area. Cortland and Onondaga counties have more evenly dispersed age groups. Madison, Oswego, and Cayuga counties tend to have an older population, with the majority of residents aged 40 through 60.

Why Does It Matter?

Understanding demographics help us understand community needs.

A region’s demographics can help illustrate its changing and diversifying needs while shedding insight on the make-up of individuals and populations within a community. The study of age distribution and gender data can influence planning for policy initiatives, housing, schools, and health systems.

For example, the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative of Greater Syracuse, which helps low and moderate income families to improve the safety and efficiency of their homes, reports that 65 percent of its 2016-2017 applicants were female heads of household. This information can help the initiative in tailoring its outreach messages and service offerings.

The high number of young women in Syracuse and Cortland compared to men could correlate to more single mothers in the region. This may point to services needed by this population, such as affordable, high-quality child care.

Aging populations can sometimes be correlated with a feeling of decline in an area, as it signals a population decrease. A younger population can bring vibrancy and innovation, leading to the growth and success of a community. This highlights the importance of ensuring cultural and economic opportunities are available to motivate our youth to stay and energize the region

Languages by Area

Languages by Area - Onondaga County

Languages by Area - Madison County

Languages by Area - Oswego County

Languages by Area - Cayuga County

Languages by Area - Cortland County

Languages by Area - Syracuse

Languages by Area - Oneida

Languages by Area - Oswego City

Languages by Area - Auburn

Languages by Area - Cortland City

Let's Break It Down

Languages spoken represent the diversity of the region.

Most census tracts in Central New York have a large amount of English-only speakers, though many residents in the Central New York region speak more than one language. Of the census tracts with the highest number of English-only speaking populations, no census tract was fully English speaking. The highest ranged from 87 to 93 percent in each of the counties.

Following the national trend, the second most popular language in the region is Spanish. There are also a good number of Chinese speakers, the third most commonly spoken language in the United States and the first in the world.

Throughout Onondaga County, there are many Arabic speakers. Arabic is the official language of many countries including Somalia, Sudan, and Syria. Between 2007 and 2016, Somalian and Syrian refugees were some of the most represented in Onondaga County. English is the dominant language spoken in rural counties, while languages from around the world are sprinkled in.

In 2017, 416 new refugees came to the Syracuse area, a drop of 72 percent and the lowest number of refugees in ten years. In 2016 the number of new refugees peaked at 1,466.

Why Does It Matter?

A diverse city benefits all.

The majority of people who speak non-English languages, such as Vietnamese and Arabic, are concentrated in the city of Syracuse’s Northside, where high populations of immigrants and refugees reside.

Immigrants and refugees add to a region’s diversity, making for a stronger and more vibrant community. Diversity in food and culture attracts younger populations, creates growth and presents economic opportunities benefitting a city and its residents.

According to New American Economy foreign born residents added significantly to the local tax base, made up 4.9 percent of the Syracuse’s metropolitan statistical area’s spending power, and contributed $1.7 billion to the Gross Domestic Product of the metro area.

Syracuse has seen a dramatic decline in population since the 1950s. Immigrants and refugees helped reverse that downward trend by increasing the city’s population by almost two percent between 2000 and 2014. Immigrants and refugees in Upstate New York have also increased the value of real estate by fixing homes and starting successful businesses.

A diverse city benefits all.

A Local Story

Starting New Again

Individuals from all over the globe occupy the main lobby of InterFaith Works (InterFaith). The beautiful blend of languages are intertwined, a sign that afternoon classes are about to get underway.

One of those refugees utilizing and finding strength at InterFaith is Shou Da Yan from China. He is one of the many success stories that have come out of the organization’s refugee support programs. He arrived in the United States in February of 2017.

InterFaith addresses the needs of those who have arrived through federal refugee resettlement programs — fleeing war, political oppression and famine. The road to get here is grueling and tiresome. InterFaith is instrumental in getting newly resettled people acclimated and helping them become self-sufficient. Staff members assist with the details many take for granted — like completing paperwork, getting connected to a primary care physician and ensuring their homes are secure.

When he was younger, Shou Da’s mother and father were both imprisoned in Shenyang under religious persecution. During that time, he lived with his cousin and found it extremely hard to live with a very limited income. His mother lives here now, and he hopes to bring his father to the United States and make his family whole again. He credits InterFaith with helping him learn English and obtain his first job.

According to Executive Director Beth Broadway, the refugees that come through InterFaith’s doors are some of the most resilient, hardworking people she has ever met.

“They are survivors and will do just about anything to start their lives over again,” said Broadway. “We’re all here. We’re all in this together and it makes us stronger. It’s what builds our democracy.”

What You Can Do

Give input and get involved.

Whether you’re an experienced volunteer, an activist, a student, working professional, or a stay-at-home parent, there are roles both big and small that you can play to shape the future of the region.

See Additional Opportunities View All
Volunteer
Teach sign language with WHOLEME Learn More »
Donate
Fund multicultural interpreter services through MAMI Learn More »
Take Action
Join a community action group Learn More »
Civic Engagement
Join a board Learn More »

English Proficiency

English Proficiency Ratios - Onondaga County

English Proficiency Ratios - Madison County

English Proficiency Ratios - Oswego County

English Proficiency Ratios - Cayuga County

English Proficiency Ratios - Cortland County

English Proficiency Ratios - Syracuse

English Proficiency Ratios - Oneida

English Proficiency Ratios - Oswego City

English Proficiency Ratios - Auburn

English Proficiency Ratios - Cortland City

Let's Break It Down

The highest number of people with limited English proficiency is concentrated in Syracuse.

The English language proficiency data measure the percentage of people who speak English less than very well. Syracuse has the highest amount of languages spoken; the city has the highest immigrant and refugee population in the Central New York area.

In Syracuse, Laotian speakers are the most limited in English proficiency – with almost 81 percent speaking English less than very well – although the total number of speakers is only 108. The total Vietnamese population in Syracuse is 1,187, and over 61 percent speak English less than very well.

Language groups with low English proficiency ratios, between 80 and 100 percent speaking English less than very well, tend to have small populations in the given area, with most between two and 85 speakers.

Why Does It Matter?

Limited English proficiency significantly affects daily life.

When a resident of the United States has limited proficiency in the dominant English language, it can present a series of challenges that are significantly impactful on their lives and those around them. This includes the degree and quality of their education, employment, and the ability to obtain a driver’s license, vote, and gain government or public assistance. This can make it difficult to gain access to something as important as healthcare to something seemingly simple, such as purchasing groceries.

Understanding the number of people in an area who have limited English proficiency can allow services to be better aligned towards the needs of a community.

In Onondaga County between 2007 and 2016, Burma, Bhutan, and Somalia were the countries of origin of the majority of our refugee population. Of the almost 1,000 refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan, many served as interpreters for the United States during military conflict. Of the approximately 12,000 Syrian refugees accepted to the United States in 2016, almost 250 settled in Syracuse, all according to Syracuse.com.

Interpretation services are expensive. To help combat these language barriers, community nonprofit MAMI, or the Multicultural Association of Medical Interpreters, provides translation in healthcare, legal, social services, education, and workplace settings in Central New York. MAMI also provides education for refugees and immigrants, including prenatal, driving, and basic need programs.

Limited English proficiency significantly affects daily life.

A Local Story

A Voice for the Voiceless

Hamadi Mukoma lights up when he talks about his work at MAMI Interpreters. His passion doesn’t go unnoticed.

“It’s important to me to help others around the community because I understand the struggle that some may have,” said Mukoma.”

MAMI (originally the Multicultural Association of Medical Interpreters of Central New York, Inc) is a nonprofit civil rights organization that prides itself in offering Limited-English Proficient (LEP) persons better access to health care, legal and social services.

Mukoma came to the United States in September of 2003. He was born in Somalia, but fled to Kenya with his family as refugees in 1989 during the Somalian Civil War. The father of six began to work with MAMI as a freelance interpreter in 2006. In 2008, the organization hired him as a part-time interpreter. 

His services are often in high demand. His calendar is booked several months out and he is a common figure gracing hospital and court halls. He is a calming force between doctor and patient, an educator in most cases, too, explaining culture on both sides. He carefully explains that in the United States, everyone has freedom of speech and the right to get the proper medical care; in most cases, the people he serves come from countries that suppress basic human rights.

“When refugees come to the United States, they don’t know what their rights when seeking services,” said Mukoma. “They’re scared to speak up here because they were not given these rights by their government in their country.”

New Americans also face difficulty understanding the laws of a new land. Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), domestic abuse and sexual harassment laws are not common in many of their home countries, causing confusion, Mukoma notes.

“When I go to court, I see people struggle because they don’t know the law here,” said Mukoma. “For many, they don’t know that what they’re doing is against the law here because no one taught them. There is a significant language barrier.”

As a multilingual interpreter who speaks Swahili, Somali and Maay Maay, Mukoma is a real asset to Syracuse’s refugee and immigrant community. He is eager to develop his skills and says he values the relationships he has made over the years through his work in the hospitals and courts.

Mukoma praises the work MAMI Interpreters does and emphasizes just how important its work is.

“MAMI gives a voice to everyone,” said Mukoma. “We are here to help anyone who lives in this region and needs a service from us.”

What You Can Do

Give input and get involved.

Whether you’re an experienced volunteer, an activist, a student, working professional, or a stay-at-home parent, there are roles both big and small that you can play to shape the future of the region.

See Additional Opportunities View All
Volunteer
Organize refugee events for Interfaith Works Learn More »
Donate
Increase adult English proficiency through Literacy CNY Learn More »
Take Action
Join a community action group Learn More »
Civic Engagement
Join a board Learn More »

Our Veterans

Veteran Population - Onondaga County

Veteran Population - Madison County

Veteran Population - Oswego County

Veteran Population - Cayuga County

Veteran Population - Cortland County

Veteran Population - Syracuse

Veteran Population - Oneida

Veteran Population - Oswego City

Veteran Population - Auburn

Veteran Population - Cortland City

Let's Break It Down

Most Veterans in the area served in the Vietnam War.

The majority of Veterans living in Central New York served during the Vietnam War; the second largest number served in the Gulf War. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, most Veterans living across the nation served in the Gulf War followed by the Vietnam War. As of 2017, New York has the fifth-largest Veteran population across the 50 states.

Veteran Affairs predicts that by 2037, the Veteran population in America will decline from today’s 20 million to closer to 13.6 million. The same trend was seen in Central New York between 2009 and 2015; the Veteran population in Oswego County was approximately 3,600 in 2009, and decreased to 2,900 in 2015, with similar trends across the region.

Why Does It Matter?

For Veterans, the obstacles reentering civilian life are many.

Veterans face many obstacles after completing service and reentering civilian life, including post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, substance use, depression and thoughts of suicide, according to the National Institute of Health. Evaluating the size and average age of a community’s veteran population can assist with planning for health and mental care needs.

Homelessness is also a major issue among veterans. According the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there were approximately 40,000 homeless veterans in 2016, however that number was significantly lower than counted in 2010.

Successful reintegration into civilian life requires the availability of post-military employment opportunities, homelessness prevention services and quality mental and physical healthcare. Americans’ pride in our armed forces is entrenched in our culture; with the right data and resources, we can ensure that we are providing our veterans with the services they need.

For Veterans, the obstacles reentering civilian life are many.

A Local Story

Honoring Their Service

In 2009, Randy Flath traveled as a guardian with his father on a mission with Honor Flight Rochester. As one of the many hubs of the national Honor Flight Network, the organization works to help every willing and able war veteran obtain a flight or bus trip to visit the National WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. The trips are completely free of charge and funded by donations and gifts.

While there, Flath observed the smiles and gratitude of the veterans at the memorial and throughout the trip. After seeing how much this experience meant to his father and the other veterans on the mission, he was determined to bring a similar experience to the veterans of Central New York.

Flath is now the President and co-founder of Honor Flight Syracuse. As president, he leads the board to coordinate missions and ensure the growth and stability of its programming.

“Due to the advancing age and fixed income of World War II veterans, many are unable to visit the memorial that was built and designed in their honor,” he said. “The experience provides veterans with a chance to go to the memorial where they are honored.”

During the missions, each veteran is accompanied by a volunteer guardian to ensure a safe and comfortable experience. When arriving back at the airport after each mission, they are greeted with a warm welcome of bagpipers, friends and neighbors who gather there to mark the final leg of their journey with a show of gratitude.

“We not only want to give veterans the chance to see the meaningful memorial, but to remind them that their service and sacrifices for our country are still appreciated every day,” said Flath. “Veterans have reported that it is truly an immeasurable experience.”

Although for some a mission can be a solemn trip of difficult memories, they are able to experience it together with their comrades from their days of service, family members and caring volunteers by their side. Families of veterans have reported that the tours have stirred memories that the veterans shared with their loved ones for the first time ever and ultimately brought family members closer together to record history for future generations.

Since inception in May of 2012, the Syracuse hub has completed ten missions, carrying more than 600 veterans ranging in age from 86-101 years old.

“We not only want to give veterans the chance to see the meaningful memorial, but to remind them that their service and sacrifices for our country are still appreciated every day,” said Flath. “Veterans have reported that it is truly an immeasurable experience.”

What You Can Do

Give input and get involved.

Whether you’re an experienced volunteer, an activist, a student, working professional, or a stay-at-home parent, there are roles both big and small that you can play to shape the future of the region.

See Additional Opportunities View All
Volunteer
Welcome home veterans from Honor Flight missions Learn More »
Donate
Support Clear Path for Veterans Learn More »
Take Action
Join a community action group Learn More »
Civic Engagement
Join a board Learn More »