Census Results: Poverty Rate in New York

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Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on The Brian Lehrer Show, Sam Roberts, urban affairs correspondent for The New York Times, discusses the 2010 Census results and what they reveal about poverty in New York.

Today the 2010 Census comes out, and Sam Roberts says New York City has hit another record in population.

It hit just over 8 million in 2000 and it will be higher this time. But what I’m getting from people up in Albany who have just received the Census results... is that the total number for New York City is disappointingly low according to city officials, lower than the 8.4 million they were expecting, and the chances are they’re going to challenge that count as being way too low, particularly in areas outside of Manhattan, outside of the Bronx even, where they think they undercounted people like immigrants. They didn’t count new housing, and things like that, the count should be tens of thousands of people higher.

The Census agreed with the city that there was, in fact, an undercount in the nineties. Now if the city wants to try to prove an undercount they will have to use indicators such as building permits and vacancy rates.

 The chances of those apartments being vacant these days are pretty slim. What is more likely is they simply couldn’t find people there, in some cases immigrants, legal and otherwise, who simply didn’t want t be found.

The city was expecting 8.4 million, but Roberts expects at most 8.2. 

It will be considerably below the 8.4 they were hoping for, and the 8.4, frankly, that the Census Bureau itself had estimated in last years American Community Survey.

Poverty rates and economic turmoil certainly also show up in census results. Doubling up due to economic restraints could also account for the low count, especially in public housing where people might risk eviction if they are known to have multiple extra household members.

The Census doesn’t show that much detail anymore, most of that is reflected now in the American Community Survey … the 2009 nationwide poverty rate was 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent, and that was the second statistically-significant annual increase since 2004. There were 44 million people in poverty. One of the interesting things about the poverty rate in New York City… is if it had not been for food stamps, probably another 250 thousand New Yorkers would have been officially in poverty in 2009.

With 44 million people are living in poverty, that’s about one in every seven Americans. The official poverty definition is an income of $10,800 for a single adult, or $22,000 for a family of four. In New York City the threshold for two adults and two children is $21,000.

And remember, that, of course, is the official standard of poverty. There are a lot of people living above that threshold, who are, by any normal measure, poor.

There has been more aggressive outreach to families who do not traditionally apply for food stamps, such as two-parent families, to try to catch more people in the safety not created by the federal program. 

The problem then is the proportion of people on food stamps, who are described as “near poor” — living just above the poverty line — has gone up as well.

A large increase is expected in the number of Latinos living in the city, but also a large increase in the number of Latinos in poverty. 

They are not as successful as they’d like to be. There are disproportionately high poverty figures among Blacks and Hispanic people and that has remained stubbornly resistant to all sorts of efforts to improve it.

Roberts said the implications of these lower-than expected population numbers for NYC are two-fold. 

One - we will get less federal aid, and two - we will get somewhat less political representation when the Legislature and Congress are reapportioned.