1 in 4 New York City Children Now Lives in Poverty

The biggest reason for the surge in poverty, both nationally and in New York, was the end of several pandemic-era government policies, like the expanded child tax credit, enhanced unemployment insurance and cash payments that helped low-income families keep up with rising costs, said Christopher Wimer, the director of the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University and a co-author of the report.

“It’s dispiriting,” Dr. Wimer said. After several years of reducing poverty in the city, he added, “we’re going in the wrong direction.”

The researchers used a metric called the supplemental poverty measure, which considers both income and noncash support like food stamps, as well as the local cost of living. It differs from the U.S. census’s official poverty measure, which only counts cash resources, but the supplemental measure is also widely used by the government.

In 2022, under the supplemental measure, a family of New York City renters with two children was considered below the poverty line if it made less than about $44,000. The poverty threshold for a single adult renter was $20,340.

The rise in poverty underscores wide disparities in New York.

Black, Latino and Asian New Yorkers were roughly twice as likely as white residents to live in poverty, and women were more likely than men to be unable to afford their basic needs, according to the report.

A major reason for the disparities is the lopsided jobs recovery, said James Parrott, the director of economic and fiscal policy at the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School.

While the city said in October that it had recovered all the jobs lost during the pandemic, the positions that have returned have mostly been in low-paying industries, like home health care, which pays workers an average $32,100 a year. The median household income in New York City is about $75,000.

At the same time, the retail sector, a higher-paying industry that disproportionately employs Black, Latino and Asian workers, shed more jobs than any other industry, Dr. Parrott said.

Charles Lutvak, a spokesman for the mayor’s office, said that “Covid-19 took a disproportionate toll on our most vulnerable neighbors,” but pointed to a number of initiatives, including a summer youth employment program and the expansion of the city’s earned-income tax credit, as signs of progress.

But the average unemployment rate in 2023 among Black New Yorkers was 9.3 percent, more than three times higher than among white residents, according to Dr. Parrott.

A full 25 percent of children in New York City lived in poverty in 2022, the highest rate since 2015, according to the report.

It was a sharp reversal from 2021, when the expansion of the federal child tax credit program cut child poverty in New York City by 30 percent, said Chloe Sarnoff, the director of policy research at Robin Hood.

The program temporarily increased the annual tax credit to $3,600, up from $2,000, for qualifying children under 6 years old, and up to $3,000 for older children. But Congress failed to extend the benefits.

The need for public aid is clear at Grand Street Settlement, a nonprofit social services group in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn that has seen its food pantry lines swell to 2,800 people a month, up from 500 before the pandemic.

A growing child care crisis is fueling the rising poverty rate. “If we’re going to reduce poverty in the City of New York, we have to invest in child care,” said Robert Cordero, the group’s chief executive, adding that dwindling support from the city for its free preschool program is making it harder for parents to make ends meet.

Shavon Johnson, 30, who is studying to become a medical assistant, enrolled her 4-year-old son in a free day care program offered by Grand Street, and said she could not imagine what she would do without the support.

“I would be homeless” if not for the program, she said.

The report recommended permanently expanding public benefits such as the federal child tax credit and New York’s Empire State Child Credit, a tax credit for New York State residents first passed in 2006.

Robin Hood recommends expanding the Empire State Child Credit to a maximum benefit of $1,000 a year, per child, up from $330, and eliminating income criteria that disproportionately leave out Black and Hispanic families.

The changes could lift up to 76,000 children out of poverty, according to an analysis by Columbia University.

The report also supported zoning reforms that would increase the supply of affordable housing, and expanding rental assistance vouchers to help keep low-income residents in their homes.

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