Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Two Out of Every Five Children in New York Live in Low-Income Families
Leading Child Poverty Organization Launches New York State Family Resource Simulator to Inform Policymakers on the Economic Security of New York’s 4.6 Million Children

In New York, one of the most populous states in the country, more than two out of five children live in low-income families, reports the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP). Astonishingly, in New York City, more than half of all children are low-income (56%), a fact made more striking by the vast wealth in the city.

Of the 4.6 million children living in New York State, 42% (1.9 million) live in low-income families. On average, families in the United States need an income of twice the federal poverty level to afford the basics, such as adequate food, stable housing, health care, and reliable child care. Children living in families with incomes below this level—currently $40,000 a year for a family of four—are referred to as low income.

“It should be unacceptable that more than half the children in New York City live in families that struggle to meet their most basic needs for food, housing, and medical care” said Dr. Nancy K. Cauthen, Deputy Director of NCCP. “Too many families in New York are economically vulnerable despite hard work.”

NCCP’s analyses refute arguments that low-income status is simply the result of poor work ethic and having large families. Nearly three quarters of children in low-income families in New York State have at least one employed parent, and 50 percent have a parent who works full-time. The vast majority—nearly 80 percent—of low-income single-parent families in the state has only one or two children (the same is true for New York City). The message is clear. The central policy challenge is how to provide low-wage workers and their families with an adequate safety net.

New York Family Resource Simulator

NCCP’s New York Family Resource Simulator (FRS) is part of a larger project to provide policymakers with a better understanding of the current patchwork of federal and state programs that assist low-income families. A web-based tool, the FRS shows how public policies could be improved to better support work.

Results from the FRS show that even with the help of public benefits—including food stamps, health insurance, and federal, state, and local tax credits—low-income families in New York City who work full time cannot afford basic necessities.

“Policymakers and advocacy organizations should use this tool to determine how work support programs can be better designed to promote economic independence for New York’s families,” said Dr. Cauthen.