ITHACA, N.Y. — According to the latest U.S. Census 2015 population estimates, Tompkins County had its lowest population growth in a decade.

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The latest estimates, released last week, give Tompkins County (which is exactly how the census defines the Ithaca metropolitan area) an estimated population of 104,926, an increase of 199 from the revised 2014 population estimate. The census revised the 2014 value upward slightly from 104,691 to 104,727.

tc population est_2010_2015

According to the Cornell Program on Applied Demographics, the increase would be smallest since 2004-05, when the census reported that the county dropped in population. Overall, however, the county added about 5,000 new residents in the 2000s, increasing from 96,501 in the 2000 census to 101,564 in the 2010 census.

The census estimates are determined by an analysis of people moving into and out of the county (in-migration and out-migration), birth rate and death rate. The estimates released last week cover the 12-month period from July 1st, 1014 to July 1st, 2015. Population estimates for individual cities and towns will be released in May.

Even with the claimed slowdown, Tompkins County is one of only thirteen counties in the state growing year-over-year in the 2015 census estimate, and one of only two outside of the New York and Albany metropolitan areas. The only other non-Albany or downstate county to add residents from 2014-15 was Hamilton County, a rural county in the Adirondacks, and the smallest by population in the state.


Since 2010, Tompkins County has grown by 3.3%. However, the story is quite different for its neighbors. Schuyler County has lost less than 1% of its population, Cortland County and Seneca County have lost between 1% and 2% of their populations, while Broome County and Cayuga County have lost over 2% of their populations. Tioga County has declined the fastest, with an estimated 3.3% decrease in population since 2010. In short, outside of the Ithaca/Tompkins bubble, the region is languishing.

Nationwide, the fastest growing metropolitan areas and counties tended to be in sunbelt states – Texas, Florida and South Carolina dominate the top 20 list. North Dakota also had a few counties up there, but given how the oil market’s been doing since July 2015, their growth has probably slowed down a bit.

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