Nearly a third of Nassau County’s population will be over 60 years old by 2024, and its young adult and child population will decline by 60,000 people, fueled by a mass exodus of college grads seeking jobs elsewhere and a projected drop in child births, according to a new study conducted by the county’s comptroller office.

Calling these trends “alarming,” Comptroller George Maragos said this report should “be a wake-up call to local civic, industry and political leaders to find policy solutions to reverse these trends.”

Nassau’s aging population and its loss of younger people could negatively impact property taxes, schools, housing values and the economy in general, according to the comptroller.

“We are not only losing our young adults but we are having fewer children,” Maragos said.

The study found that Nassau’s population remained stagnant since 2000, while Suffolk County has had a 13-year growth rate of 5.7 percent. Nassau’s population will drop 3 percent—or by 60,000 people—over the next decade. As younger people move away, Nassau’s remaining population will continue to age at a significant rate, the study predicted. The report stated that the 60 and over population will jump 5 percent, from 22 now to 27 percent in 2024.

The findings should fuel a public debate about the county’s future, Maragos said. He also proposed a new “economic vision” for the county based on the health care industry, with the aim to make Nassau the “Health Care and Medical Research Capital of the World.”

“Nassau County should become the destination where people want to come for the best medical treatment and where the next cures will be found for cancer, diabetes, dementia, Ebola and Alzheimer’s,” Maragos said.

Investments would have to be made in other areas as well, such as ultra high-speed communications and improving public transportation, the study suggested.

The study pointed to several possibilities—high cost of living, lack of affordable housing—to explain why young people leave the county, but the researchers didn’t come to any concrete conclusions.

“While we find that these hypotheses may have some merit,” the report states, “they do not fully explain why other regions with a higher cost of living and higher unemployment rates or fewer entertainment options are growing faster and are attracting our youth.”

It then goes on to cite Washington D.C., San Francisco and New York City as examples of major areas where young people gravitate toward.

But the study does find that regions and cities successfully poaching young people have one or more “world-leading industry concentrations.” San Francisco, for example, has Silicon Valley, the study notes.

“It’s not a surprise on a certain level,” Eric Alexander, executive director of Northport-based Vision Long Island, a smart growth planning organization, said of the report. “Like anything there’s forks in the road, there’s things that we can do to change the trajectory and I think some of those things are in the motion.”

He said 9,300 housing units have been approved in the last seven years Island-wide and 10,000 additional units are in the works.

When it comes to young people, Alexander pointed to three reasons why they leave: jobs, lack of exciting downtowns and “affordability of everything, not just housing.”

According to Census data, from 2000-2012 Nassau’s youth population (0-19) dropped by nearly 19,000 people, working age population (20-59) fell by 9,000 and senior population (60 and up) increased by 42,630.

Read the report:

Nassau County Demographic Study

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