Report: Things Looking Up In A Changing Bensonhurst

You could say we put the “class” in working class.

A piece by Brooklyn Eagle editor Raanan Geberer, which summed up the findings of a recent report put out by the Center for the Study of Brooklyn at Brooklyn College, describes Bensonhurst as a neighborhood where hardworking parents raise educated, ambitious children. And when it comes to smoking and health, we’re sort of like France.

One of the most promising findings in the article – which was published yesterday – was that, despite Bensonhurst’s working class, immigrant demographic (or maybe because of it), our hood has generally not displayed significant signs of encroaching poverty – indicators which have become increasingly common in blue collar communities throughout the country since the current economic downturn began in 2008. Much of the data used in the study was from 2008-2009.

This sign outside of a Bay Parkway barber shop illustrates how Bensonhurst's big city diversity and old school values often coexist as opposite sides of the same coin.

In fact, poverty among children in Bensonhurst had actually decreased by around one third since 2000.

From the Eagle:

Although Bensonhurst and Bath Beach are basically working-class areas with a growing number of immigrants, there are few indicators of what sociologists call the “culture of poverty.”
Sixty-three percent of today’s Community District 11 high school students graduate on time, higher than the borough-wide average of 58.8 percent. And 54.2 percent of the area’s students head to college, more than the 48 percent borough-wide figure. Only 21 percent of the adults aged 25 or older are college graduates, but it’s typical in immigrant areas for children to become better educated than their parents.
Community District 11’s median household income rose only slightly from 2000 to 2007-09, from $41,873 to $42,071. In 2007-09, 18.6 percent of all children under the age of 18 lived in poverty, down from 27.5 percent in 2000.

The neighborhood’s evolving ethnic makeup is also reflected in the report.

The white population decreased between 2000 and 2007-09 from 65 percent to 52 percent, while at the same time the Asian population increased from 23 percent to 33.7 percent, with the Latino population increasing from 8.2 percent to 12.6 percent.

The area’s top three ethnic groups – in order from first to third, Italian, Chinese, and Russian – remained the same.

The order of the most common places of birth however, had changed – albeit slightly. While in 2000 it was New York State, China, Italy, Russia, and Ukraine, in 2007-2009 Russia had replaced Italy in the number three spot, with Italy dropping to number four.

Also indicative of Bensonhurst’s growing immigrant population is the number of households whose adult residents speak little or no English – which rose from 27.8 percent to 37.9 percent.

To top it all off, in spite of having one of the city’s highest smoking rates, the report states that neighborhood residents seem to be healthy. The majority of residents polled for the study responded that they were in good or excellent health. The percentage of people eating fresh fruits and vegetables at least once a day increased from 80 in 2000 to 85 in 2007-09, while the number of people who exercised within the past month increased from 71 percent to 86.

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