Did population decrease or stay the same?
The only conclusion to draw from preliminary census numbers from Beacon is that it’s difficult to draw conclusions from Beacon’s preliminary census numbers.
At first glance, the figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau last week show a startling loss of 1,772 people in the past decade, from 15,541 to 13,769, or more than 11 percent in a city that has seen the addition of hundreds of apartments and condos in recent years.
But Mayor Lee Kyriacou said on Monday (Aug. 16) that he believes the agency’s numbers from 2010 and 2020 aren’t comparable.
In 2010, he said, the count included 1,790 prisoners at the Fishkill Correctional Facility, which is split, geographically, between Beacon and the Town of Fishkill.
The mayor said he believes the Census Bureau did not include the prison population in the 2020 numbers. He suggested it instead counted inmates as permanent residents of their hometowns, regardless of where they’re incarcerated.
Kyriacou said he learned that prisoners had been included in Beacon’s 2010 count in 2012, when he analyzed the data while co-chairing a committee tasked with redrawing the lines for Beacon’s four council wards.
Without prisoners, the population in 2010 was 13,751, Kyriacou said, compared to 13,769 counted for 2020, an increase of 18 people.
But that, too, is hard to believe for a city that three years ago hired environmental engineers to study whether its water supply could support the long-term impacts of rapid residential development. (It could, through 2035, the report found.)
Kyriacou said he was surprised by the minimal increase, “but the size of families is declining, not only in Beacon, but probably nationally. The families that are moving out were larger, and the ones coming in are smaller.”
New York City residents who have purchased second homes but do not count Beacon as their primary residence also may have contributed to the confusing numbers, he said.
On Wednesday, however, a Census Bureau representative seemed to disprove the mayor’s hypothesis about inmate residency, saying that “we enumerate everyone where they are as of April 1” of last year, whether they are inmates, nursing home residents or college students, among other examples.
Told of the Census Bureau response, Kyriacou revised his hypothesis, suggesting that the inmate population at Fishkill Correctional, which prison officials said in July 2019 was 1,616, was counted entirely in 2020 as part of the Town of Fishkill, which grew by 2,119 people, or nearly 10 percent.
The situation may become clearer, but not for a while. The Dutchess County Planning Department will take a closer look at the underlying data within a year, said John Penney, who chaired the county’s Complete Count Committee.
Until that happens, the uncertainty makes it difficult to interpret the demographic breakdown for Beacon published last week by the Census Bureau. According to those figures, Beacon saw significant increases in the number of residents who identified as being of multiple races (up nearly 129 percent) and Asian Americans (up 17 percent).
Meanwhile, the white population decreased 11.5 percent and Blacks by 46.5 percent, although the Census Bureau cautioned that many people who said they were white or Black in 2010 may have reclassified themselves as multiracial in 2020.