U.S. Markets closed

Census shows NYC poverty rate up, inequality high

Karen Matthews, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- New York City's poverty rate grew slightly last year and the median income remained lower than it was before the recession, according to U.S. Census figures released Thursday.

The city's poverty rate, defined as $23,314 for a family of four, rose to 21.2 percent in 2012, up from 20.9 percent in 2011 and 20.1 percent in 2010.

New York City's median household income of $50,895 was barely above the 2011 median of $50,657. It has not caught up with the 2008 figure of $54,695 despite the economic recovery that started the following year.

"The rising tide of recovery has yet to lift all boats," said Triada Stampas, a spokeswoman for the Food Bank for New York City, which distributes food to more than 1,000 food pantries, soup kitchens and other community-based programs.

David R. Jones, president of the Community Service Society, a research group concerned with poverty, noted that the poverty rate for single mothers rose from 40.4 percent in 2011 to 43 percent in 2012. Hispanic New Yorkers had the highest poverty rate of any ethnic group at 29.8 percent.

"We're seeing an explosion of poverty problems particularly in the Latino community," Jones said. "They are concentrated in many low-wage sectors that are particularly hard hit, such as car-wash workers and fast-food workers."

Fourteen percent of New Yorkers had no health coverage, either private or public.

The figures show stark economic inequality in New York City, where the mean household income of the lowest fifth was $8,993 while the mean income of the highest fifth was $222,871.

Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, whose campaign is based on a "tale of two cities" narrative of inequality, said in a statement Thursday, "This shameful income disparity proves once again that we must chart a bold new path toward equality if we want to create real opportunity for all New Yorkers — and this starts by asking the wealthy to pay a little more to fund universal early education and after-school programs."

But Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs said Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration has made progress in reducing poverty.

"The national recession increased poverty rates across the country, but other major cities saw their poverty rates increase by more than what we have seen in New York City, largely because we've been a national leader in creating jobs and breaking the cycle of poverty," Gibbs said.

In Manhattan's Chelsea section, where $2 million condos abut low-income housing projects, the line outside the soup kitchen run by the Church of the Holy Apostles stretched around the block Thursday.

The line included Michael Stewart, 54, who said he lost his job driving a truck in 2009.

Stewart said he can't make enough to get by with the part-time work that's available like hawking free newspapers and picking up trash in parks.

"Even the affordable apartments are unaffordable," he said.