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  • Writer's pictureChristopher McHale

NYC IS SO RICH IT’S POOR

Latest report has record high poverty rates in city



What is poor?


There’s poverty of spirit. There’s an empty pocket. Those two types of poor compliment each other in an emotionally draining tango.


The recent findings regarding poverty in New York City, as highlighted in the Poverty Tracker Annual Report by Columbia University and Robin Hood, raise critical concerns about the city's economic disparities and their impact on its most vulnerable populations, especially children.


That’s sobering but it’s also a feature built into our economic system. Poverty is a natural result of an unchecked prosperity. The children do not have to do anything more in New York City than go to the playground. The poverty inevitably rises around them.


The report's startling statistic that over half of the city's residents, including a quarter of all children, live in poverty or are considered low-income, underscores a growing crisis that demands attention and action. Not that it will get much love from the only place that matters. The towers of commerce, the bankers, the captains of Manhattan, the princes and limousine queens.


I’ve felt the bite of this city. Most New Yorkers feel the chasm underneath. But I’ve also never seen the city quite like this.


But you must ask: How is  poverty measured and what do these numbers truly represent? Poverty, in the context of these studies, is typically calculated based on a set of income thresholds that vary by family size and composition. These thresholds are intended to represent the minimum amount of income deemed necessary to cover basic needs. I’m not questioning the amount of poverty, I’m looking at the cause.


When a family's income falls below their threshold, they are considered to be living in poverty. This measurement can be influenced by both the poverty population itself and the cost of living, which includes rising housing costs, rising food prices, rising healthcare, over stagnant income.


In New York City, where the cost of living is notoriously high, the rising rate of poverty is notoriously high, and those two poles are dependent on one another. This dichotomy presents a paradox of prosperity, where the city's wealth and economic growth coexist with deepening economic divides. The increasing cost of living can disproportionately affect those with lower incomes, exacerbating the challenges they face in meeting basic needs. Thus, individuals and families may find themselves classified as living in poverty or as low-income not necessarily because they are earning less money over time, but because their incomes are not keeping pace with the rising costs associated with living in the city.


What I see is sort of auto-poverty. Inevitable. Sometimes you can feel the crushing surrender on the trains and buses.


This scenario suggests a chasm in the city's socio-economic landscape, where prosperity for some leads to hardship for others. The concept of individuals being "poor simply by treading water" reflects the reality that maintaining a stable financial position is becoming increasingly difficult for a significant portion of the city population.


Where is the city’s future in that?


The implications of these findings are profound, particularly for the city's children, who are growing up in an environment where economic insecurity can affect their health, education, and overall development. Addressing this issue requires a cold bucket of water in the faces of our politicians. Free market ideology is a shackle on our freedom. No one stands a chance in this economic landscape. Entitlement is not a feature in a democracy, it’s a cancer. As generations are created, entitlement naturally rots the economic core of a society. It’s not sustainable. Eventually it’s destroyed by the masses below. And then the cycle begins again.


The change is in the size of the crash. A greater than ever wealth gap will cause a greater than ever crash.


You look out across the city. The rising poverty rates are intertwined with the city's cost of living and income disparities. Understanding the dynamics at play is crucial, but simply understanding doesn’t really change anything does it? Is it possible to thrive in one of the world's most prosperous cities? Or is thriving now a critical part of the American Dream beyond the reach of most Americans?


New York has a way of changing things. New Yorkers are not the type to surrender the city to sheiks and oligarchs. This is not the city I grew up in. It’s not even the city I lived in ten years ago. But in essence it’s the same city it’s always been. I’d never bet against New York. But maybe I’ve moved from the poker table to the roulette wheel.

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