Buffalo by many local residents, is an American city in western New York. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 292,648. It is the state's second-largest city, after New York City, and is the county seat of Erie County.GR6 It is also the economic and cultural center of the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area, with a population of 1.2 million people, as well as being the dominant city of Western New York, a part of the broader Buffalo Niagara Region. The Buffalo area is adjacent to the Golden Horseshoe, an urban region in southern Ontario.
The City of Buffalo received its name from the creek that flows through it, and likely dates from the mid-18th century, when the area was first settled by Europeans. The area was originally settled by a Neutral Nation tribe, the Ongiara. Later, the Senecas of the Iroquois Confederacy won control over this land from the Neutrals. The then-village was designed in 1804 with a radial street and grid system, centered on where the McKinley Monument now stands. Buffalo is one of only three major US cities with such a street layout.
In the War of 1812, on December 30, 1813, the village, which was considered a military resort, was burned by the British. In 1825, the town became the western end of the Erie Canal and had a population of around 2,400. It was incorporated as a city in 1832.
At the start of the 20th century, immigrants from Europe came in to work in the local mills which used hydroelectric power generated from the river. The city got the nickname City of Light at this time due to the widespread electric lighting used. In 1881, Buffalo had deployed the first electric street lights in the United States.
The city's economy declined in the later half of the 20th century, due to the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1957, cutting the city off from the normal trade routes. The city, which boasted over half a million people at its peak in the 1950s, has seen its population decline by almost 50%, as industries shut down and people left the Rust Belt for the employment opportunities of the South and West. However, the suburbs adjacent to Buffalo have grown from 300,000 in the 1950s to over 600,000 in 2007.
The end of 2006 saw an upturn in the city's prospects. Economic development in the city was marked at $3.5 billion in 2006 compared to a $50 million average for the previous ten years. New proposals and renovations were numerous, especially in the downtown area. Buffalo ranked 83rd on the Forbes best cities for jobs list, an increase from the previous year, and beating out cities like New York City, Cleveland, and Detroit. Buffalo is also scheduled to get a new tallest building in 2010; the Buffalo City Tower will rise 600 feet.
Like most formerly industrial cities of the Great Lakes region--the so-called "rust belt"--Buffalo has suffered through several decades of population decline brought about by the loss of its industrial base. The city's population peaked in 1950, when it was the 15th largest city in the United States. Its population has declined in every year since, particularly during the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the city lost nearly one-third of its population in only five years.
At that time of the 2000 census there were 292,648 people, 122,720 households, and 67,005 families residing in the city. The population density is 2,782.4/km² (7,205.8/mi²). There are 145,574 housing units at an average density of 1,384.1/km² (3,584.4/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 54.43% White, 37.23% African American, 0.77% Native American, 1.40% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 3.68% from other races, and 2.45% from two or more races. 7.54% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 122,720 households out of which 28.6% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 27.6% are married couples living together, 22.3% have a female householder with no husband present, and 45.4% are non-families. 37.7% of all households are made up of individuals and 12.1% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.29 and the average family size is 3.07.
In the city the population included 26.3% under the age of 18, 11.3% from 18 to 24, 29.3% from 25 to 44, 19.6% from 45 to 64, and 13.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 34 years. For every 100 females there are 88.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 83.5 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $24,536, and the median income for a family is $30,614. Males have a median income of $30,938 versus $23,982 for females. The per capita income for the city is $14,991. 26.6% of the population and 23.0% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 38.4% of those under the age of 18 and 14.0% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
Buffalo has very sizable populations of Irish, Italian, Polish, German and African descent. Major ethnic neighborhoods still exist but they changed significantly in the second half of the twentieth century. Traditionally, Polish-Americans were the predominant occupants of the East Side, while Italian-Americans composed a close-knit neighborhood in the west side. The East Side is now a predominantly African American neighborhood, while the West Side has become a melting pot of many ethnicities, with Latino culture being the strongest influence. Throughout the history of Buffalo, the neighborhoods collectively called the First Ward, as well as much of South Buffalo, have been comprised almost entirely of people of Irish descent.
Like the rest of New York, Buffalo is subject to the state’s benchmark evaluation system. The Buffalo Public Schools curriculum is aligned to state standards set by the Education Department. At the high school level, students are required to pass Regents Examinations for each course upon its completion.
Currently, there are 78 public schools in the city including a growing number of charter schools. As of 2006, the total enrollment was 41,089 students with a student-teacher ratio of 13.5 to 1. The dropout rate is just 5.3%, and 83% of students who graduate go on to college. More than 27% of teachers have a Master's degree or higher and the median amount of experience in the field is 15 years. When considering the entire metropolitan area, there are a total of 292 schools educating 172,854 students.
Buffalo is noted  for its model magnet school system attracting students with special interests, which include science, bilingual studies, and Native American studies. Specialized facilities include the Buffalo Elementary School of Technology; the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Multicultural Institute; the International School; the Dr. Charles R. Drew Science Magnet School; Build Academy; Leonardo da Vinci High School; the Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts BAVPA; the Riverside Institute of Technology; Lafayette High School/Buffalo Academy of Finance; Hutchinson Central Technical High School; and the Emerson School of Hospitality. The City Honors School was recently ranked #8 in the nation by Newsweek magazine. Buffalo is currently in the process of a $1 billion city school rebuilding plan.
The city itself is home to 47 private schools while the metropolitan region has 150 such institutions. Most private schools have a Roman Catholic affiliation, such as St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, Nardin Academy and Canisius High School; however, there are schools affiliated with other religions, such as Islam and Judaism, and many nonsectarian options, including The Park School of Buffalo and The Nichols School.
Complementing its standard function, the Buffalo Public Schools Adult and Continuing Education Division provides education and services to adults throughout the community. In addition, the Career and Technical Education Department offers more than 20 academic programs, and is attended by about 6,000 students each year.
Buffalo is home to two State University of New York (SUNY) institutions. Buffalo State College, a comprehensive college, and the University at Buffalo, the flagship university center of SUNY, each are the largest institution of its type in the system. Combined, they account for roughly 40,000 students in the area.
Other academic institutions in Buffalo or its suburbs include: Bryant & Stratton College, Canisius College, D'Youville College, Daemen College, Empire State College, Erie Community College, Hilbert College, Houghton College, Medaille College, Trocaire College, Villa Maria College, Niagara County Community College (Niagara Falls, NY and Sanborn, NY).