About 2.7 New Yorkers—or every two in five—do not reach the Self-Sufficiency Standard, according to the 2014 update of the report released Dec. 2. This means nearly a million families in the city are not making enough money to pay all of their bills. Plus, 94 percent of these families qualify for welfare but do not receive it.
The Self-Sufficiency Standard is a measurement of what the “bare bones” a person or family really needs to survive, says Dr. Diane Pearce, who developed the standard and currently serves as the director of the Center for Women’s Welfare. It is different from the Federal Poverty Level, which is a broader calculation.
“Forty-two percent of families are below this bare-bones standard, and this is really bare bones. The food is only grocery food … housing is at the fair market rents,” Pearce said. “This, by the way, excludes elderly disabled households, so these are working-age family households.”
The federal measurement cuts the number of “poor” New Yorkers by almost half, and misrepresents the problem, advocates say.
“I didn’t expect to have such high numbers, even as we are moving out of a recession,” Pearce said.
From 2000-2014, median earnings in the city rose 17 percent, but cost of living far outpaced wages, rising 45 percent.
The report points out there is wide diversity within the group of 2.7 New Yorkers who are barely, or not, making ends meet.
Households in NYC with inadequate income by race/ethnicity: