Published March 24, 2011
By Dwight R. Worley
Westchester and Rockland are among the most diverse counties in the state, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data released Thursday.
In the past decade, the counties have seen Hispanics, Asians and other minorities become a larger percentage of their populations. While communities with high numbers of minorities aren’t necessarily the most diverse — especially if they’re dominated by one group or have few non-Hispanic white residents — experts say the shifting demographics have bought a greater mix of races and ethnicities to the region.
“More and more white people are moving out and going South or going into alternative places to retire, and they’re being replaced by a more diverse population, mostly Latinos,” said Gregory Holtz, professor of public administration at Pace University. “The people moving out aren’t going to look exactly like the people moving in.”
Westchester and Rockland are the fifth and the seventh most diverse counties, respectively, in New York — behind the five counties of New York City — according to the USA Today Diversity Index. The index, developed by the newspaper, measures the likelihood that two people chosen at random from a particular area would be of different races and assigns a score of 0 to 100. A higher score indicates greater diversity.
Westchester’s index of 61.7 in 2010 is up from 55.1 in 2000. Rockland went from 46.4 to 53.9, while Putnam’s index of 30.7 compares to 19.4 a decade ago.
Wylene Branton Wood, president of the African American Historical Society of Rockland, said diversity is important, but even more critical is different groups learning about one another and working together.
“I think diversity means more than co-existing,” Wood said. “It means respecting each other’s traditions, working together to build a better community.”
Towns and villages, including Stony Point, Elmsford and Chappaqua, have also seen changes in their population mix.
Elmsford and Spring Valley are the most diverse communities in Westchester and Rockland, respectively, according to the index. Elmsford’s index of 78.8 increased from 72.4 in 2000; Spring Valley’s score rose nearly 5 points to 76.3.
The data also show:
• The region’s large cities and villages are among the most diverse areas. Peekskill, Yonkers, Ossining, Haverstraw and West Haverstraw all ranked high with scores over 70. White Plains has a score of 68.3.
• Largely white sections of Westchester and Rockland experienced the largest diversity gains.
Buchanan’s index score of 36.5 in 2010 is up from 12.2 a decade earlier, while Chappaqua’s score rose 22 points, to 40.6.
In Rockland, Stony Point had the biggest gain: 38.1 last year versus 20.2 in 2000.
• Despite a growing Hispanic population, Port Chester became less diverse, according to the index.
Its score dropped to 65.5 in 2010 from 68.3 in 2000.
A couple of other areas also saw a drop in diversity, including New Square — 2.2 in 2010 versus 6.7 in 2000 — and Kaser, whose score dropped about a point to 2.3.
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