Study: 21 percent of New Yorkers are living in poverty

Children particularly affected by recession, Center for Economic Opportunity data find

MSNBC | Apr 17, 2012

By SAM ROBERTS

The number of New Yorkers classified as poor in 2010 increased by nearly 100,000 from the year before, raising the poverty rate by 1.3 percentage points to 21 percent — the highest level and the largest year-to-year increase since the city adopted a more detailed definition of poverty in 2005.

The recession and the sluggish recovery have taken a particularly harsh toll on children, with more than one in four under 18 living in poverty, according to an analysis by the city’s Center for Economic Opportunity that will be released on Tuesday.

Families with children were also vulnerable. They had a poverty rate of 23 percent, and a significant number of households were struggling to remain above the poverty line. Even families with two full-time earners were more likely to be considered poor in 2010; their ranks swelled by 1.3 percentage points to 5 percent compared with 2009.

By the city measure, more than 1.7 million residents were poor in 2010, the last year for which an analysis could be calculated.

The center placed most of the blame on reduced earnings caused by higher unemployment during the recession, which struck in New York later than in the rest of the country. The analysis emphasized that the poverty rate would have soared higher — to 23.7 percent over all, and to 27.6 percent for families with children — without the expansion of government tax credits, food stamps and other benefits since 2007.

In part because of a city outreach program, the number of New Yorkers using food stamps catapulted to more than one million in 2010 from 773,000 in 2008.

Unlike the official federal poverty rate, the city’s measure takes into account tax credits and benefits as well as expenses, like medical care, child care, commuting and housing. Those expenses increased the city’s version of the poverty threshold for a two-adult, two-child family to $30,055 in 2010, compared with the federal threshold of $22,113.

By the federal measure, 7.7 percent of New Yorkers were living in extreme poverty, meaning below 50 percent of the poverty line. By the city’s measure, 5.5 percent were in extreme poverty.

The city classified 12.4 percent of New York residents as near poor — living at 100 percent through 124 percent of the poverty level — compared with 5.4 percent by the federal measure.

From 2009 to 2010, according to the federal standard, the city’s poverty rate increased 1.5 percentage points to 18.8 percent.

High poverty even if recession fades?
The poverty rate had declined for years from a high of 20.5 percent in 2005 but began climbing in 2008, when the recession hit. Hispanic and black New Yorkers, including children, were hit especially hard.

“Given the priority that policy makers have given to child poverty,” the analysis by Mark Levitan, the center’s director of poverty research, said, “the rise in the poverty rate for children, from 22.9 percent in 2008 to 25.8 percent in 2010, is particularly notable.”

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