What does poverty look like in New York? Before we dive in, let’s take a look at exactly how poverty is defined. Poverty is the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions. It exists when people lack the means to satisfy their basic needs, including a place to live and consistent meals to eat.
You may be surprised to hear these five facts about current estimates of poverty in New York:
1. New York’s poverty rate remains higher than the national average.
The official poverty rate in the U.S. in 2018 was 11.8 percent, compared to the U.S. Census Bureau’s calculation that 14.1 percent of people living in New York state were living in poverty last year. To compare this figure to that of surrounding states, New Jersey’s 2018 poverty level was at 10 percent, Pennsylvania’s was at 12.5 percent, and Connecticut’s was at 9.6 percent.
The 2017 poverty threshold for two-adult, two-children families in New York was $33,562 per NYCgov. This was compared to the 2017 U.S. official poverty rate of $24,858.
2. Poverty in New York City is on the decline overall.
The latest report on poverty in New York from the NYCgov Poverty Measure, which uses a metric developed by the Poverty Research Unit of the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity to capture poverty in the city more accurately than the federal measure, found that the citywide poverty rate fell to 19 percent in 2017. This rate decreased from 20.7 percent in 2013.
The share of the population at the NYCgov near poverty rate—people living at under 150 percent of the threshold—fell to 43.1 percent. This is a 2.8-percentage-point decline from 2013.
Based on these rates and accounting for population growth, it’s estimated that about 236,500 fewer people were in poverty or near poverty in 2017 than in 2013. This reduction indicates that the city is making greater-than-projected progress toward its 2015 goal to move 800,000 people out of poverty or near poverty within the following 10 years. During this period, poverty rates fell among Hispanics, Asians, whites, children, and people with a high school degree, among others. In fact, New York City’s poverty rate is at its lowest level since the Great Recession. But there is still work to do.
3. The employment rate in New York reached its pre-recession peak in 2018 and has continued to grow.
Poverty rates are influenced by the economy because the number of people working full time and the income they earn are key factors in building household resources. The most recent data show that employment and income both continue to improve, which are promising signs of the continued reduction of poverty.
4. The minimum wage in New York is increasing to $15 an hour—which will lift the earnings of more than 2.1 million New Yorkers.
Another factor of poverty is earnings growth, and the new state minimum wage law is helping people who are at risk of falling into poverty. Although the minimum wage in New York in 2013 was $7.25 an hour, the rate has been gradually increasing since 2016 and will soon reach $15 hourly across the state.
5. Policy affects poverty, and government initiatives are greatly helping people who are at risk.
Although poverty in New York has decreased as wages and employment have risen, safety net benefits still play an important role in keeping families above the poverty threshold. Benefits include nutritional assistance like SNAP, tax credits, and housing support, among other initiatives.
In recent years, local government has been working to combat poverty in New York and to increase opportunity by expanding affordable housing initiatives, providing free, high-quality Pre-K to all 4-year-olds in the city as well as paid sick leave, and offering technology-focused approaches to improving social services benefits access.
Although poverty levels are overall on the decline in recent times, there are still many people struggling to make ends meet. For instance, of the 4.6 million children living in the state of New York, 42 percent—1.9 million of them—are growing up in low-income families.
Wondering how you can help those in need? There are so many opportunities to give back to your New York neighbors! Consider donating your time or money to local nonprofit organizations dedicated to reducing poverty and hunger, or look for ways that you can participate in an upcoming event that benefits a neighborhood nonprofit.