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Big Spike in NY's Poverty Rate Reported
Crain's New York
Daniel Massey

September 16, 2010
View the Original Article

More than 3 million people here lived in poverty last year, the Census Bureau reports. That's defined as a family of four making $21,954 or less in a year.

The Great Recession sparked a rise in New York's poverty rate to 15.8% in 2009 from 14.2% the year earlier, the second-highest year-over-year jump since 1980, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday.

There were more than 3 million New Yorkers living in poverty in 2009, up from 2.84 million in 2008. New York's poverty rate was 12th highest in the nation and worse than all other northeastern states, the data show. The official definition of poverty in the U.S. last year was a household income of $21,954 or less for a family of four.

“New York is very unusual,” said Frank Mauro, executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, a Albany-based think tank with an interest in poverty issues. “We're the only wealthy, northern industrial state in the top tier in poverty. It's a strange mix of wealth and poverty.”

Median income in the state (just over $50,000) came in at 22nd in the country, according to the Census Bureau's annual survey of the U.S. population, but per capita income her (nearly $47,000) is fifth in the nation, reports the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

“We have lots of income, but it's not distributed as evenly as in some states with a much larger middle class,” Mr. Mauro said. Part of the reason, he added, is that many of New York's wealthy suburbs are located out-of-state.

Nationally, the poverty rate jumped to 14.3% from 13.2%, the largest single-year increase on record. Mr. Mauro said the rise could reflect the fact that lower-paid workers are more likely to have lost their jobs during the downturn.

The census data also show a decline in employer-sponsored health insurance in 2009: Last year, 53.7% of New Yorkers received coverage from employers, versus 58.7% in 2008 and 58.6% in 2007. With the loss of employer insurance, more New Yorkers obtained coverage via Medicaid, which covered 22.2% of residents in 2009 compared to 19.3% in 2008.