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New Census Data Shows Rise in Working Poverty in Every Borough

New York, NY— Newly released Census Bureau statistics, including poverty data released yesterday, show that the economic recovery has not yet reached a majority of New Yorkers. One out of five New Yorkers live in poverty, and the City’s overall poverty rate increased slightly from 2010 to 2011. Racial disparities in earnings remain high and median household incomes have fallen since 2010, most notably in Latino households.

Some key findings from the latest data are:

  • Working poverty in New York City remains high, with nearly one in ten full- and part-time workers living below the federal poverty line.
  • Poverty rates are consistently higher in New York City than for New York State or the U.S. Nearly one in ten residents of New York City live in extreme poverty.
  • Well over half the income in New York City is earned by just one-fifth of the population; a slightly greater share than in 2010, as the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.
  • Racial disparities in earnings continue to be high. Latino households have lost income since 2010, and now earn less than half the income of White households citywide. Black/African American households fared only somewhat better, earning just 56% of what White households earned.
  • Nationally, median household income declined 1.3% to $50,502. In New York City, median household income dropped a slightly greater percentage, to $49,411.

Matt Ryan, Executive Director of ALIGN, said the latest Census figures point to an economic recovery that is troubling and not widely-felt.

“Poverty and income inequality increased yet again in New York City. Although we’ve added jobs, the new jobs that are being created tend to be lower-wage than those we lost during the Recession,” said Ryan. “Policies at all levels of government need to be focused on creating quality jobs that not only put people back to work, but also lift people out of poverty.”

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

  • The Bronx continues to have the highest level of poverty in New York City. One in three Bronx residents lives under the federal poverty line and extreme poverty is also widespread. Over 180,000 residents of the Bronx live below 50% of the poverty level, which is $5,742 per year for an individual.
  • Manhattan has the greatest income inequality by race among the five boroughs. Latino and Black households earn just one-third that of White households, and Asian households earn just one-half.
  • In 2011, Queens had the greatest degree of income equality by race among the five boroughs, with Black and Latino households earning nearly as much as White households. In 2011, the income for White households increased by over $5,000 per year, while Latino households lost nearly $4,000 over the same period.
  • Staten Island has a distinct divergence from the other boroughs in household income distribution. The income of White households decreased since 2010, while that of Latino, Black and Asian households increased. Asian and Black households saw the largest increases, $13,000 and $6,000 respectively, reducing income inequality in the borough.
  • Poverty remains stubbornly high in Brooklyn. In 2011 the poverty rates of White, Latino, and Black residents increased slightly. Brooklyn is the second most expensive city in the U.S., yet nearly 300,000 households earn below $25,000 per year.

Some New Yorkers who lost their jobs during the recession have been disappointed with their new job prospects. East Harlem resident John Medina was a partner in a construction business until his work slowed during the recession.

“The only job I could find after we closed our business was delivering dry cleaning at night. It’s been a huge stress on my family—I barely make enough money now to care for myself and pay my child support,” said Medina, a member of Community Voices Heard.

Some New Yorkers have dropped out of the job market because their wages and schedules were unsustainable. Ire Lavezzari decided to become a full-time student after she was laid off from her retail job earlier this year.

“I worked hard at JC Penney on 34th Street for three years as a salesperson to put myself through college,” said Ire Lavezzari, a member of the Retail Action Project and a student from Brooklyn. “Before I was laid off in April, the company’s erratic scheduling practices, poor pay, and lack of respect made it hard for me to survive. That’s why I’m part of the Sustainable Scheduling Campaign – together we are holding corporate retailers accountable for creating sustainable jobs because retail is one of the fastest-growing industries in our city. ”

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 20.1% in 2010 to 20.9% in 2011. Statewide, the number of individuals living in poverty is 14.9%, and nationally, the percentage of people living below the poverty line crept up to slightly less than New York City’s percentage, reaching 15.9%.

The poverty and income numbers for New York City are particularly troublesome given our high cost of living. Manhattan and Brooklyn were recently ranked the 1st and 2nd most expensive cities in the country. 41.2% of New Yorkers live below 200% of the federal poverty line of $22,340 per year. 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 Manhattan North to $50,570 in Manhattan South for an individual. That leaves the number of New Yorkers likely struggling to get by even higher than Census estimates.

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 2011. 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.