Poverty in New York state continues to outpace national levels and those of neighboring states, with racial minorities and other historically marginalized groups bearing the heaviest burden, according to a report released Thursday by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
The percentage of New York residents living below the poverty threshold landed at nearly 14% in 2021, more than a percentage point higher than the national rate, according to the Census Bureau’s Official Poverty Measure.
Other pressures identified by the bureau and used in DiNapoli's report — like difficulty paying for household expenses — have shown indications of worsening as recently as October, following signs of relief last year.
The comptroller’s findings come on the heels of simmering economic anxiety in the face of inflation and the lingering effects of the pandemic, which brought several industries to a halt for months, and in some cases continue to be a challenge.
“For many, economic hardships existed long before this time; the pandemic deepened the financial stress experienced by these households, fracturing the delicate balance often necessary to make ends meet,” DiNapoli said in an introductory message included in the report.
The economic pain felt by many Americans and residents of New York state also comes as public health restrictions have eased for much of the country this past year in favor of taking the heat off local and national economies.
“Even as jobs have returned, rising costs during a high inflationary period have also placed pressure on budgets, particularly for essentials like food and housing,” DiNapoli said.
Three counties in New York City exceeded the statewide rate of poverty: The Bronx, at more than 24%; Brooklyn, at 17.8%; and Manhattan, which also saw a high rate compared to the state, at roughly 16%.
Though poverty rates for racial minorities in New York state appear to have improved over the last decade, disparities persist for those groups when compared to white and non-Hispanic residents.
Certain groups lived in poverty at roughly twice the rate of white residents in 2021: 20% of Black residents lived below the poverty level in 2021. That rate was slightly higher for those who identified as American Indian or Alaskan Native.
Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders were impoverished at the highest rate, at more than 25%; their rates were the only ones to worsen in comparison to census data from 2010. Poverty levels among Asian New Yorkers also surpassed those of white residents, at just under 15%.
The percentage of white residents living in poverty, meanwhile, landed at 10%.
The rate of poverty for Hispanic people of any race came close to 21%, according to census data. For white, non-Hispanic residents, the rate was 9.6%.
Unmarried women who supported their households saw disproportionate poverty rates compared to families and married couples in 2021. But that was the only area in which New York displayed a better outlook than the national trend; both rates approached 25%.
“The federal government provides the backbone of the safety net, and its comprehensive and robust federal response assisting individuals, families, businesses and state and local governments was instrumental in forestalling huge increases to the poverty rate amid the pandemic,” the report reads.
“Yet most of that support has now lapsed,” it continues.
Other aspects of the picture look bleak. A fifth of New Yorkers living below the poverty line in 2021 had a disability, a higher share than in 2010. Poverty among older residents remains below the statewide average, but rates among those 65 years and older have “increased modestly over time,” the report reads.
Child poverty rates exceed those of the overall population, and a quarter of state residents of all ages living in poverty were born outside of the U.S. Nationally, that share is 15%.
“Difficulty in paying for household expenses started increasing again by September 2021 and continued to rise through 2022, to a level higher than two years before,” the report reads.
More than 47% of New Yorkers reported some degree of difficulty paying for household expenses in October. Nationally, the rate was more than 40%.
“Alleviating poverty in a sustained manner must be an intergovernmental effort, with the federal government continuing to play the largest and most important part as the level of government best equipped to intervene effectively,” the report reads.
It urges the federal government to continue exploring alternative poverty measures, “to allow for accurate assessment of need and modern living standards,” among other things, and for the state to view poverty as “a cross-agency priority.”