More Than Half of New Yorkers Living in Poverty, Classified as Low-Income: Report

The Poverty Tracker report found that roughly a quarter of all children in the Big Apple live in poverty.
More Than Half of New Yorkers Living in Poverty, Classified as Low-Income: Report
People line-up for food distribution in Brooklyn, New York City, on March 1, 2023. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Lorenz Duchamps

More than 50 percent of New York City residents either live in poverty or are low-income and likely face challenges in covering basic living costs, a new report from the city’s largest anti-poverty organization Robin Hood has found.

The number of people living in poverty across the city grew from 1.5 million to 2 million between 2021 and 2022, according to the non-profit’s annual Poverty Tracker report released on Feb. 21.

This number includes nearly 420,000 children who are living in poverty, it noted, which translates to roughly a quarter of all children in the Big Apple.

In 2021, researchers found that 260,000 children lived in poverty—meaning the child poverty rate saw a 66 percent increase in a single year, rising from 15 percent to 25 percent. This puts the city well above the U.S. Census Bureau’s national rate of 16.3 percent.

Overall, the poverty rate increased from 18 percent to 23 percent, according to the report, marking the largest single-year jump in citywide poverty rates since the organization began collecting data over a decade ago.

In comparison, the national U.S. poverty rate in 2022 was 11.5 percent, with nearly 38 million Americans living in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual survey. This means the city’s poverty rate was twice the national average in 2022.

The report pointed out that the 500,000-person increase was largely attributed to the expiration of pandemic-era policies like stimulus checks and expanded tax credits.

However, New Yorkers living below the poverty line were not the only ones struggling to make ends meet in 2022. More than 4.6 million people—or 56 percent—had incomes “below 200 percent of the poverty line,” according to the report.

New Yorkers in this category were twice as likely to experience difficulty paying for housing, energy, telephone bills, and food compared to those living “above 200 percent of the poverty line.”

Richard Buery Jr., CEO of Robin Hood, said in a press release that New York is in the midst of an affordability crisis.

“It is particularly disturbing given the steady progress New York City has made to reduce poverty in years prior, including during the pandemic, where 500,000 children avoided poverty thanks to temporary, stabilizing government policies,” Mr. Buery said.

“We know that fully refundable tax credits, housing vouchers, and childcare subsidies can move millions out of poverty and hardship,” he continued. “But we have lacked the will to keep these policies in force.”

How New York’s Poverty Is Measured

Since 2012, Poverty Tracker has surveyed a sample of 3,000 New York households every three months to track data on employment, assets, debts, and health to provide information on the dynamics of poverty and other forms of disadvantage.

The poverty line threshold is based on a metric called the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which stood at an annual income of $43,890 per year for a household with two adults and two children.

“Many would argue this figure is too low,” researchers said, adding that $87,780 for a renting family of four is a more accurate representation of an income level whereby families can afford a decent standard of living.

The poverty threshold for a single adult renter in New York City was $20,340 in annual income, according to the report.

In 2022, Latino New Yorkers were twice as likely to be affected by poverty compared to white New Yorkers, 13 percent compared to 26 percent, the report shows. The poverty rates for Asian and black Americans were similarly elevated, 24 percent and 23 percent, respectively.

The report also found that women living in the city were more likely than men to be unable to afford a decent standard of living, with 5 percent more women living in poverty compared to men. It also found that 5 percent of women experienced more health problems as a result of these material hardships compared to men.

People living below the poverty line often cannot afford to eat healthy food regularly. Getting quality medical care is also financially out of reach for many people in this category, which means they’re more likely to have a higher mortality rate.