“We provide the demographic backdrop for policies and programs that the city undertakes,” he said.
Heading into the 2020 U.S. Census, Salvo will play a big role to ensure everyone in the city is counted. He’s a member of the Census Bureau’s advisory committee and on the state commission for the census.
“We regularly get together and try to figure out the best strategies to reach people,” he said.
Within Queens, Salvo said a big region to focus on is southeast Queens, where rates of participation have been “historically low.”
“In general, the black population of the city, regardless of their socioeconomic level, has the lowest response in the census,” Salvo said. “And that needs to change.”
His division has been conducting focus groups and survey research work to figure out what messages might resonate to get people to realize that “it’s in their best interest to respond.”
Another challenge within the borough is the 190 languages that Queens residents speak.
“We have to find ways to deal with that and to succeed under those circumstances,” he said.
As a demographer in the city, Salvo also watches population trends. For example, the Afro-Caribbean population in southeast Queens, though still large, has been “giving way” to an exploding south Asian population.
And Queens Village and Cambria Heights are two other neighborhoods that have seen a decrease in the black population.
“You need to know about those transitions because when you go into those neighborhoods,” Salvo said, “you need to be aware of who’s there.”