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Friday, August 5, 2011

What's Really the Story?

Two NY Times articles:

Under 18 population in NYC is becoming more white

Bed-Stuy is becoming more white

As I've written here before, I appreciate Sam Roberts and the NY Times' demographic coverage, which is much more intensive and in depth than you find in most other large papers. That being said they very, very often report with a strange set of blinders on.

First of all, the Times completely misses a gigantic factor in both these stories, which is the growth of the Hassidic population Brooklyn (and in Northern Bed-Stuy between Myrtle and Flushing as it specifically relates to the Bed-Stuy story), in favor of their general gentrification narrative.

But more importantly, the Times seems to think the story of the city is that of young, white people with disposable income and their varying migration patters, and the impact of these migration patters on the rest of the city (the flaws of which I wrote about here). While this is certainly A story, it is not THE story. It is not even a large story.

Check out the map showing white population change in the last decade. The areas where there is high growth of the white poplation are small and very specific parts of the city, limited to about half of Manhattan, a quarter of Brooklyn, the south shore of Staten Island, and a few other isolated census tracts. And many of these have nothing to do with the Hipster/Yuppie gentrification pattern - they're growth in the Hassidic, other religious Jewish, Eastern European, Central Asian or other populations that are pretty far from the MacLaren stroller-pushing couple or fixie-riding hipster that the Times seems to think are so important.

I would love the next story about Demographic change in the city to be about the growth of the South Asian community in Ozone Park and East New York, or the Korean population in Bayside, or the diversification of the North Shore of Staten Island or Jamaica Estates or Bensonhurst. Or just something other than this same old story.

Sometimes you have to look at the NY Times more like one of New York's ethnic newspapers - their ethnicity being, essentially, "Yuppie." Once you look at it like this, the biases in these types of stories become understandable and less frustrating. Still, if you're going to call yourself the "New York" Times, you should try to focus on the citizens of "New York," about 3/4 of whom live well beyond the geographic and social confines that the Times' demographic reporting has been limited to so far.

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