NYC’s Poverty Rate Goes Up for 3rd Straight Year

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An estimated 74,000 more New Yorkers fell into poverty last year, according to U.S. Census figures released Thursday. It marks the third straight year that the poverty rate has ticked up in New York City.

The poverty rate was 20.9 percent for 2011, up from 20.1 percent in 2010. The one year increase was modest but still statistically significant, according to Census Bureau data. It caps an increase that began in 2008, when the poverty rate for the city was an estimated 18.4 percent.

For a single person, poverty is defined as living off less than $11,500 annually, and for a family of four the amount is $23,021 a year. Both government officials and public policy experts acknowledge that the threshold is too low, especially in high cost cities such as New York.

The Bronx continues to have the highest poverty rate in the city at just over 30 percent of residents living below the federal poverty rate. Manhattan had the largest increase — nearly 2 percentage points in 2011 to 18.3 percent compared to the year before where the rate was 16.4 percent.

"These poverty numbers reflect a national challenge," said Samantha Levine, a spokesperson for the Mayor's office, "the U.S. economy has shifted and too many people are getting left behind without the skills they need to compete and succeed."

Some specific demographics in the city did worse than others. The number of elderly, people 65 and over for instance, living in poverty went from 17.2 percent in 2010 to 19 percent in 2011.

David Jones from the Community Service Society speculated this increase was a reflection of how difficult it's been for older workers to find jobs. "It's sort of a confluence of the recession," said Jones. "Where there was a lot of job loss that hit particularly people with limited skills who were approaching retirement or elderly and who now can't get back into the economy." 

Jones pointed out that Latinos were another group seeing a significant uptick in poverty.

As poverty rose, so too did the percentage of people receiving food stamps. According to the census figures, 20.6 percent of New Yorkers were using food stamps in 2011 compared to 19.3 percent in 2010. There was also a slight uptick in people receiving social security benefits.

The city's median household income continued to hover around $50,000 a year.