The foreign-born population in New York City and environs

I mapped most frequent foreign country of birth using data from tables B05006 and B05002 (for Puerto Rico) of the American Community Survey, using the 2012-2016 5-year estimates. Census tracts were only shaded when the share of the most frequent country of birth was more than 10% of the total population and if the total population of the census tract was at least 100. All birth countries which were the most frequent in at least 10 census tracts in New York and New Jersey appear in the legend; 30 other countries appearing fewer than 10 times were grouped as “other”. The color scheme used was that of Trubestskoy, who developed a palette of 20 distinct and nameable colors.

1,080 of 2,167 (49.8%) of the census tracts in New York City, along with many others in suburban New York and New Jersey, had at least 10% of their populations born in a single foreign country. Leading countries were the Dominican Republic (246 census tracts in New York City), China (205), Jamaica (166), and Guyana (86). The map reveals well-defined clusters of census tracts for these countries as well as for Korea, India, El Salvador, Poland, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, Haiti, Ukraine, Bangladesh, and Puerto Rico. Note that because the American Community Survey is a survey, the data are subject to sampling error, which can be large at the census tract level. Also, the manner of presentation does not allow seeing which tracts feature significant populations from multiple countries, nor does it distinguish between tracts just above 10% foreign born versus those which are closer to 100%. These would require a series of maps rather than a single map, which I hope to get around to eventually.

Aside from the overall utility of a map depicting the cultural diversity in the New York City metropolitan area, I was motivated to call attention to the lack of attention to place of birth in public health surveillance systems, which emphasize race and ethnicity almost exclusively. The broad racial/ethnic groupings of white, black, Asian or Pacific Islander,American Indian or Alaska Native, and Hispanic mask within-group differences that can exceed between-group differences. This often occurs between foreign-born and U.S.-born individuals, who can have considerably different health risks. For example, liver cancer rates in Korea are ten times that in India, making it unhelpful to lump these populations into a single Asian and Pacific Islander category. Unfortunately, birthplace information is often not well collected. In the absence of adequate data, researchers could consider using census data as an area-level proxy for individual birthplace.

(This map originally appeared in PeerJ Preprints. Original citation: Boscoe FP. 2018. The foreign-born population in New York City and environs. PeerJ Preprints 6:e27061v1). Link

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