ITHACA, N.Y. — Here’s something Tompkins County hasn’t seen in a while – a majority of its municipalities losing population in year-over-year census estimates.

The data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau, which released its 2015 figures for estimated population growth yesterday. We’ve included a table of the local statistics below.

A couple notes for reading the chart – villages are included in the town populations. All estimates are for July 1st of the given year. The data can be downloaded from the U.S. Census Bureau from their website here for the villages, and here for the towns. The estimates are determined using births, deaths, and reported migration in and out of the county (changes of address).

In the year-to-year estimates, 9 communities dropped in population, while 7 gained residents. every village except Cayuga Heights lost population, as well as the towns of Newfield, Groton, Enfield, and Dryden, which had the largest year-to-year drop by number, losing 33 residents for a population of 14,955. The largest percent drop, at -0.95%, went to Freeville, dropping to 520, the same population it had recorded during the 2010 Census.

On the other end of the scale, the town of Lansing had the largest numerical increase from 2014 to 2015, gaining 82 residents for a total of 11,524, and the town of Caroline grew the fastest, at 2.43%, adding 82 residents for a 2015 estimate of 3,456. The city of Ithaca’s population grew by 44 people to 30,788.

However, keep in mind that these are estimates. For instance, the 2014 numbers were revised slightly, mostly upward. This latest years’ data is the least complete in terms of information, and therefore it’s the estimate most prone to error.

Since 2010, all communities except Freeville have grown in population. The village of Dryden and town of Danby have seen the largest increases, +10.8% and +6.2% respectively.

With 30,788 people, the city of Ithaca’s population is at an all-time high. Most upstate cities saw their maximum populations back in 1950. At that time, Ithaca had 29,257 residents; it then declined over 10% by 1970 to 26,226, and has slowly made it way up over the past 45 years.

In comparison, the city of Elmira had 49,716 residents in 1950, and in the 2015 estimate it has 28,213 citizens, a drop of over 40 percent. Likewise, Binghamton had 80,674 residents in 1950, and in 2015 it was estimated to be 46,032. Long story short, Ithaca, the economic bright spot in a deeply-depressed region, is the only major community that has posted population growth.

The state of New York has grown by 417,689 residents since 2010, to 19,795,791. Most of that has been in New York City, which added 375,272 residents. Upstate has largely been in decline, with a few rare exceptions like Tompkins and Saratoga Counties. In the long-term, that means New York City will have that much more influence over the state’s politics, for better or worse.

Similarly on the county level, city of Ithaca interests and representation have increasingly gave way to suburban towns as the city’s population held steady or declined, while communities like Lansing and Dryden have grown. With the recent growth in the city, the trend towards the suburbs hasn’t stopped, but it has slowed down.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at