Poverty on New York City streets, Poverty Tracker Fall 2014

The Columbia Population Research Center, in partnership with the Robin Hood Foundation, New York City’s largest poverty-fighting organization, has released its Fall 2014 Poverty Tracker, the second in a series of reports designed to provide a more dynamic picture of how residents of New York City cope with poverty and hardship.

Go to full report (PDF: 37 pages).
Go to data visualization (Spring 2014 – Fall 2014).

The most salient findings include:

  • 39 percent of New Yorkers who need medical attention, who can’t pay their food and utility bills or find gainful employment, don't seek assistance; accordingly, these problems remain unresolved.
  • Only about half of households who do seek help for pressing problems get sufficient response.
  • Households in dire circumstances—those in poverty, who are suffering from severe material hardship or severe health challenges—rarely receive adequate external support.

"Lots of surveys reveal the level of vulnerability or needs among disadvantaged groups—but the Poverty Tracker is unique in being able to shed light on whether New Yorkers are getting those needs met," said research scientist Chris Wimer, one of the leading participants in the study, which was launched two years ago under the leadership of three Columbia School of Social Work faculty members: Mitchell I. Ginsberg Professor Irwin Garfinkel, Compton Foundation Centennial Professor Jane Waldfogel, and Associate Professor Julien Teitler.

The study consists of a quarterly survey of 2,300 New York City residents in the five boroughs across all income levels. It has been designed to measure health challenges as well as financial poverty and material hardship. Ultimately, the data will be used to make the case that local public and nonprofit agencies, along with private philanthropy, need to better design their programs to help New Yorkers who are facing tremendous hardships.

While the true power of this work will be revealed only after a year or two, the Spring and Fall reports of 2014 yield sobering findings. (For results of the Spring 2014 survey, please see this three-page summary, the full report, or listen to the NPR segment.)

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Image: "Weary," by Derek Mindler via Flickr, 15 January 2014 (CC BY 2.0).

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