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New Census Data Shows Working Poverty and Inequality High in Every Borough

New York, NY– Newly released Census Bureau statistics, including poverty data released today, show that the economic recovery has not yet reached New Yorkers. A significant and growing percentage of New York City’s individuals and families continue to live in poverty. Nearly half of individuals living in poverty worked full or part time jobs in 2010. Racial disparities in earnings remain high and household incomes have fallen.

Some key findings from today’s data are:

>   While 20% of New Yorkers live below the federal poverty line of $10,830 per year, 40% live below 200% of the federal poverty line of $21,660 per year. Even 200% of the federal poverty line, $21,660 per year, is hard to live on in New York City, which has the highest cost of living of any city in the U.S.
>   Over half the income in New York City is earned by just one-fifth of the population
>   Racial disparities in earnings continue to be high. Hispanic/Latino households earned barely over half the income of Whites. Black/African American households fared only somewhat better, earning only 60% of what White households earned.
>   Nationally, median household income declined 2.3 percent to $49,445 from 2009 to 2010. In New York City, median household income dropped a more dramatic 4.6% to $48,743.

Matt Ryan, Executive Director of ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York, said the latest Census figures were further proof that New York City is still in the midst of a jobs crisis. “With more than 20% of New Yorkers living in poverty and nearly half of these individuals working full- or part-time jobs, we need bold action from local, state and federal government to create quality jobs,” said Ryan.

ALIGN created a snapshot for each borough using the latest data and found:

>   Poverty and working poverty in the Bronx is the highest of any of the boroughs. 30.2% of working age Bronx residents fall below the federal poverty line, and 14.8% of those working full- or part-time jobs are poor.
>   Income inequality and income disparity by race is highest in Manhattan. The top 5%  earned 38.1% of the total income. Latino and Black households earn just one third that of White households. White households earned nearly $95,000 per year, while Black and Latino households earned approximately $32,000 per year.

Many unemployed and underemployed people are feeling frustrated by the state of the economy and the social safety net available to them. Melissa McClure, a Harlem resident and Member/Leader of Community Voices Heard, is 59, single and has been without a full-time job since 2006. In response to the poverty data, she said, “As one who worked since age 13, my current “over fifty” status disqualifies me for many positions despite a bachelor’s degree and an impressive work history.  I’ve had to rely on public assistance, food stamps and Medicaid and am horrified that these programs are ones our government here and in Washington wants to cut.”

Social service providers who have been on the front lines of serving the poor were also discouraged by today’s numbers. “Clients leaving our shelters and residential programs, those that we serve in our homelessness prevention programs and adults we work with on Rikers Island have always had limited options, but now without rental vouchers, finding safe and affordable housing has become a major challenge to thousands of vulnerable and at risk New Yorkers,” said Joan Montbach, Senior Policy Analyst and Senior Advisor to the President of Palladia.

New York City’s numbers did not compare favorably to New York State or the nation as a whole. The number of New York City residents living in poverty grew from 18.7% in 2009 to 20% in 2010. Statewide, the number of individuals living in poverty is 16%, and nationally the poverty rate is 15.1%.

New York City’s numbers are particularly troublesome given our high cost of living. The federal poverty level is set at $10,830, but a more accurate measure of poverty is the New York Self-Sufficiency Standard which takes into account county-by-county costs of housing, child care, food, health care, transportation, and other factors. The New York City Self-Sufficiency Standard sets the poverty level by borough, ranging from $23,394 in the Bronx to $50,570 in Manhattan South for an individual. That leaves the number of New Yorkers struggling to get by even higher than Census estimates.

“People are desperate for living wage jobs. And until those jobs are created, we must find the revenue to keep struggling New Yorkers fed and off the streets,” said Mary Brosnahan, Executive Director, Coalition for the Homeless. “With record homelessness, this is exactly the wrong time to give a huge tax break to the richest New Yorkers.”

A copy of ALIGN’s report is available on their website at:

Statistics from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) are released annually and cover the year 2010.  ACS provides demographic, economic and social data for individuals and households.  The data is made available for geographic areas with populations of 65,000 or more.


ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York’s mission is to create good jobs, vibrant communities, and an accountable democracy for all New Yorkers. Our work unites worker, community, and other allies to build a more just and sustainable New York. ALIGN was formed in April 2011 through the merger of New York Jobs and Justice and Urban Agenda. Visit for more information.