monitoring poverty
and well-being
in new york city

Experts have long pointed out that deep-seated flaws in the way the federal government calculates poverty distort our picture of life at the bottom of the economy.
A first-of-its-kind survey conducted by Robin Hood and Columbia University’s Population Research Center reports that poverty in New York City extends further than official federal statistics suggest. The Poverty Tracker measures income poverty, severe material hardship, and severe health challenges to capture the dynamics of poverty and distress in New York City. The latest study explores how New Yorkers face challenges with health and neighborhood services. These numbers reveal a far grimmer story than the official measure indicates.

uIntroduction

THE OFFICIAL POVERTY MEASURE IS WRONG

The federal government developed the Official Poverty Measure (OPM) in the 1960s, and it doesn’t reflect the massive changes to the American family over the past 50 years. The Official measure is based solely on minimum income level needed to afford food and meet daily needs. Yet the measure doesn’t account for the rising costs of living expenses, the geographic variation in costs of living, or the full spectrum of income sources families use to meet daily needs.

How many New Yorkers
are actually in poverty?d

uThe OPM

NEARLY ONE IN FOUR NEW YORKERS FACE INCOME POVERTY

The federal government recently introduced the Supplemental Poverty Measure. It is also based on income, but it incorporates the expenses of basic living necessities — food, shelter, clothing and utilities, the geographic variation in living costs, and it adjusts for the variety of factors that impact income to include government benefits and tax credits. The Poverty Tracker used the SPM methodology and found that more than 1.9 million people in New York City are living in poverty.

What if income doesn’t
capture the whole story? d

u Income Hardship

37% OF NEW YORKERS
SUFFER SEVERE
MATERIAL HARDSHIPS

In 2012 nearly four of ten New Yorkers faced a persistent shortage of critical resources or underwent an episode of acute deprivation, such as staying in a shelter, having utilities shut off or being unable to pay for a doctor.

Material hardships
Financial
Food
Utilities
Housing
Medical
?
x
hint
Toggle the left buttons on and off to see the percentage of New Yorkers who suffered each type of severe material hardship. In its default setting, the chart represents adults who experienced any of the five types of hardship.

How is health tied to scarce
financial and material resources? d

u Material Hardship

HEALTH CHALLENGES ARE MORE PREVALENT FOR THOSE UNDER THE POVERTY LINE

While people may suffer from health and related challenges regardless of their economic situation, indicators of well-being are often tied to poverty and material hardship. The numbers of New Yorkers reporting poor health or a severe work-limiting health condition increases under the poverty line.

How many New Yorkers experience multiple
forms of disadvantage at a time? d

uHealth Challenges

MORE THAN HALF OF NEW YORKERS FACE AT LEAST ONE DISADVANTAGE

53% of city residents struggled with income poverty, severe material hardship, or health-related challenges in 2012. Nearly one in five New Yorkers experienced two types of disadvantage simultaneously. 4% experienced all three disadvantages.

income
Hardship
Health

How many New Yorkers suffer from
chronic illnesses? d

uDimensions of Disadvantage

Nearly half of New Yorkers suffer from chronic health challenges

New Yorkers are suffering from chronic health issues at an alarming rate, with hypertension leading the way as the most prevalent health issue. As obesity rates climb in the city, prevalence of diabetes and hypertension are expected to increase as well, placing strains upon the city’s health care systems.

Health Troubles
Asthma
Diabetes
Hypertension

How many New Yorkers were
hospitalized? d

uChronic Illnesses

More than one in ten New Yorkers were hospitalized over a single year

12% of New Yorkers reported that they stayed overnight in the hospital during the preceding 12 months. Among those hospitalized, the largest proportion had incomes just above the Supplemental Poverty threshold.

Which New Yorkers are uninsured? d

uHospitalization

New Yorkers across income levels lack health insurance

Many New Yorkers reported that they were not covered by any type of health insurance. Those lacking insurance come from all income levels. As this data was gathered before the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was implemented, the percentage of uninsured New Yorkers may decrease in the future.

Do people receive the help they need? d

uUninsured

Those who seek help don’t always receive the assistance they need

New Yorkers reported a need for assistance in nine categories ranging from household bills to food, and from legal issues to housing. Yet not all New Yorkers who need additional services ask for assistance. About half of those who need help do not get the help they seek from family, government agencies or social service organizations.

Support Services

Sought Help
Got Help
Got All Help

How do New Yorkers regard
neighborhood services? d

uAssistance

Most New Yorkers complain about neighborhood services

When asked about the quality of city-provided services, many New Yorkers rated services in their neighborhood as “poor.” Sanitation, police, and crime-related issues drew the greatest number of low ratings.

Neighborhood Services
Health
Sanitation
Recreation
Crime
Transportation

What happens next? d

uNeighborhood Services

These studies are just the beginning.

The statistics reported here are the first of many reports that will allow us to measure the well-being of New York City residents. Future surveys will gather more detailed information on the health and well-being of respondents and their children, various shocks to respondents’ homes and family lives, holdings of assets and debts, experiences with city government and social services, and many other topics. Though the content of these reports can be disconcerting, we’re confident that our in-depth, multi-layered tracking will be an important, positive step in addressing the underlying causes of poverty and ways to devise more effective programs to help New Yorkers in need.

Coming soon

One year review of initial report: How have New Yorkers fared over twelve months?

The Columbia Population Research Center integrates a wide range of research disciplines in the effort to promote the health and well-being of vulnerable populations.

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Robin Hood is New York’s largest poverty-fighting organization, and since 1988 has focused on finding, funding, and creating programs and schools that generate meaningful results for families in New York’s poorest neighborhoods.

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