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Calculating Poverty
July 14th, 2008

Good data is almost always a good idea, so it’s hard to dispute Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s effort to update a formula for determining the poverty level, a formula that has existed since the mid 1960s.

If the mayor’s method of calculation were to be used, the percentage of New Yorkers considered poor would increase from about 19 percent to 23 percent. Cynics have observed this could help the city since, in the event that the federal government adopted the mayor’s method, more New Yorkers would be eligible for various types of assistance.

No matter how one does the math, though, the Bloomberg years have not been good for New York’s poorest citizens — despite the general economic boom.

The poverty rate has remained generally steady in the city — at about 19 percent under the old math. And the income gap has become a chasm. In Manhattan in 2006, the wealthiest fifth of households earned 40 times more than people in the poorest fifth for the widest such gap in the nation.

“We haven’t seen much movement at all in terms of diminishing poverty,” David Jones, president of the Community Service Society said in 2007

“The stagnant poverty rate, coming at a time of relative prosperity, suggests that wealth has not trickled down to the citys poorest,” the Times wrote in 2006.

The mayor and others have speculated that a constant influx of immigrants has contributed to the relatively high rate of poverty. Critics cite the rapid development of the city that has driven many moderate-income New Yorkers out of the city. How will the latest calculation help these New Yorkers?

“At this point there’s obviously huge consequences in advancing the conversation and having folks across the city and across the country really discuss and debate the implications” of the new formula, Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs told reporters. “One very practical consequence is that we hope it does advance that national conversation.”

By on July 14, 2008, 1:35 pm
In category: Demographics,Economy,Social Services | 5 Comments »

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5 Responses to “Calculating Poverty”

  1. CHarris Says:
    July 14th, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    This “reformulating” strategy is just another attempt by Bloomberg and his cronies to create a reason to take more of our tax money and give it to their constituents, ensuring more generations who will look for a handout rather than a job.

  2. Daniel Millstone Says:
    July 14th, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    While I think that the method adopted by Mayor Bloomberg is an improvement, it’s still sort of backwards because it sets an only somewhat less arbitrary level for “poverty”

    The best approach, championed by the Women’s Center For Education and Career Advancement is a self-sufficiency calculation. Try to figure out how much a family needs to live in NYC by adding up their known expenses: rent, food, utilities, health ins., clothes, day care.

    If a family isn’t earning enough to pay for necessities, they have to make up for it some other way. For example, two families could live in one apartment or a family could get food stamps.

  3. Gotham Gazette - The Wonkster » Blog Archive » The New York Post’s War on Poverty Says:
    July 21st, 2008 at 10:26 am

    [...] Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed changing the formula for calculating the federal poverty level, the New York Post editorial page has waged a steady campaign to discredit the idea – even [...]

  4. D Sullivan Says:
    July 22nd, 2008 at 10:34 am

    Can somebody point me to the documentation for this calculation?

  5. Daniel Millstone Says:
    July 28th, 2008 at 7:13 am

    Dear D. Sullivan,

    I, of course, recommend one of my own posts on the subject . It has useful hot links, the most important of which is the National Research Council’s work .

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