Geologically, the area is the plain formed from the edge of the terminal moraine, and continues as an underwater shoal into Lower New York Bay, where it historically was a prime oystering ground in the 19th century.
Prior to the 1960s, the South Shore was widely undeveloped, however after the building of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, its population rose sharply.
However territorially defined, the South Shore is noted for the rapid urbanization that took place in the area during the 1960s and 1970s. Its population is predominantly white, but according to census data has been growing more heterogeneous in recent years. Many residents are of Italian, Irish, German, and Russian descent, with a large population of Jewish residents predominantly in Arden Heights, but spread out among all the various south shore towns. The area generally has a low crime rate except for car thefts. Truancy, however, is a recurring problem.
Although the area had previously been dominated by small businesses despite the presence of Hylan Boulevard running along the eastern boundary of the South Shore, a number of shopping centers have been built over the last decade. Despite this, the area is still known to have many small businesses, including 24-hour delis, pork stores, pizzerias, cafes, gourment food shops, and a number of independently-owned pharmacies, florists, hair and nail salons, paint stores, and car repair shops.
Staten Islanders on the South Shore are known to have the longest average commute of anyone in New York City. Commuters to Manhattan have the option of express buses, which run along Hylan Boulevard, Richmond Avenue, and New York State Route 440, or the Staten Island Railroad (formerly SIRT.) Recently, express train service has been added to SIR, cutting the commute time to and from the Staten Island Ferry. Morning express trains make all local stops to New Dorp, and then express to the St. George station. In the evening, express trains travel from St. George to Great Kills, then make all local stops until Tottenville. All the stations south of Great Kills station, therefore, are served by both local and express trains.