'Census' seems off the mark

Letters to the Editor, Journal News July 11,2005

             Spring Valley Mayor George Darden has a legitimate gripe.  The new “census” of Rockland’s population missed the population growth in Spring Valley.  Is this the only locality where the Census Bureau goofed?

            First, we should understand that the Census Bureau did not carry out a census which is a complete enumeration of a population.  The bureau’s population estimate was based on the increase in building permits in each community over the last four years.  But, unfortunately, we know that many households are created without the issuance of building permits.

            The Census Bureau could have verified the obvious truth of this statement after the 2000 census.  All it had to do was compare its complete enumeration of households in each census tract with the number of households listed in the official records of each community.  At least in Ramapo it would have found vastly more households in its census than appear in the official record.     

            If you take a look at the 2000 census you will see that the villages of New Square and Kaser had very similar age distributions.  This suggests that they should have had very similar growth rates over the last few years.  Based upon historical data we know that Hassidic villages double in population about every 12 years.  So it is not surprising that New Square’s population increased 32% in just four years.  But then we have the anomalous finding that Kaser’s population increased only 3% over the same period. This suggests that either young people are abandoning Kaser at a remarkably high rate, or that the Bureau’s estimate of population growth in Kaser is wildly understated.

            Are Spring Valley and Kaser the only communities in Rockland with grossly underestimated rates of population growth?  We simply don’t know.  But I believe that at least in Ramapo population growth far exceeds the Census Bureau’s naïve estimate.            This is a serious matter; first, because a great deal of state and federal aid is based on population; and, second, because our town’s infrastructure is already in big trouble. Right now we face the possibility of a serious water shortage and lawsuits because raw sewage flows into the Saddle River after major storms.

            Just over a year ago I appeared before the Rockland County Legislature and emphasized the urgent need to hire a competent demographer to carry out a reliable study of population growth in Rockland.  We still need this study but it probably won’t happen.  Our political leaders are absolutely determined not to let any unhappy facts interfere with their comfortable careers.


Robert I. Rhodes, Ph.D., Chairman, Preserve Ramapo

 NOTE: Underlined sections were not included in the letter printed in the newspaper.