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Poverty in NYC

By Jessica Green

THE LOWDOWN:

As the Giuliani Administration touts our Golden Age, others say the wealth is not being enjoyed by most, or even by many. Anecdotal evidence, and even the numbers (according to some), support the former assertion: crime is down; employment is up; and the City is cleaner, more livable and overrun with tourists, moviemakers and fortune seekers. Life is good. But some are wary. Their numbers tell a different story: one-quarter of all NYC children live below the poverty line and more than one quarter of a million working families are defined as poor in NYS. The political debate that arises from these numerical discrepancies cannot be definitively settled; figures are countered with more figures. As the 2000 Census approaches, the U.S. Census Bureau wrestles with the need for accurate, non-partisan numbers representing the entire population. Its success will be crucial for the information it collects and for the answers it provides to politicized questions.

THE NUMBERS:

Overall trends . . .
The Census Bureau, - Judge the numbers for yourself. The Current Population Survey supplies annual figures on poverty and income (among other subjects). Bureau studies, Poverty in the United States, show national trends in the second half of the decade, as well as CPS data for1998.

And the latest figures. . .
These national data provide a point of comparison for regional trends. For additional info on recent statistics, try the Current Population Survey homepage.

Bureau of Labor Statistics - October figures for unemployment, by race, age and gender. The regional office has New York specific numbers.

New York State Data Center - Based on the 1997 CPS. Provides info, by category, on New York State poverty.

RESIDENT EXPERT:

Emanuel Tobier - NYU Professor of Economics and Senior Researcher at the Taub Center for Urban Research. Explains why the numbers are tricky and why we all need better ways to get them.

THE GLASS IS HALF FULL . . . :

The Census Bureau warns, "one should be particularly careful when interpreting results based on a relatively small number of cases or on small differences between estimates."

Kausfiles.com - Author and freelance journalist Mickey Kaus says with trademark self-assurance that the numbers look good, and we might even possibly be seeing a move toward the end of the underclass (he leaves himself a few outs). In a recent article, "The Ending of the Black Underclass, Part XVIII" Kaus produces numbers to back up his hypothesis.

US Department of Commerce - Armed with Census Bureau figures, Commerce announces "Household Income at Record High; Poverty Declines in 1998."

OR HALF EMPTY . . . :

The Fiscal Policy Institute - Posits that the numbers are grim. New York is an exception to the national trend of decreased poverty, and has been for the last ten years. Graphs and charts highlight the problems of the working poor.

The Community Service Society - In a January 1999 study, CSS announced their findings: 1 in 4 New Yorkers live below the poverty line, and 1 in 3 children are poor. Overall they found that the NYC poverty rate is well above the national average.

In a response to Emanuel Tobier, Mark Levitan, Senior Policy Analyst at the Community Service Society of New York and author of the study, defends CSS findings.


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