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If you have any questions, please contact Bryan LaVigne at 518-786-3156 or firstname.lastname@example.org
February 19, 2014. A new report from the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN) that presents data on income distribution trends for all 50 states from 1917-2011, confirms an analysis of income trends in New York that the Fiscal Policy Institute initially published in 2010. The report, by economists Estelle Sommeiller and Mark Price, builds on a groundbreaking study by economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanual Saez in 2003 that used data from income tax returns to document rising inequality in the United States since World War I.
FPI’s latest estimates of the share of income received by the top 1% in New York were published recently in its briefing book (p. 77) on the Governor’s proposed 2014-2015 state budget. Using data from the proposed budget and the latest published tax data, FPI estimates that the top 1% share rose to 30.4% in New York State and 38.7% in New York City in 2012, compared to Saez’s latest estimate of 22.5% for the top 1% share nationally.
FPI’s estimates for New York’s income distribution date to 1980, the first year that detailed tax data are available from the New York State Department of Tax and Finance. The new Sommeiller and Price report draws on Internal Revenue Service tax data back to 1917. The IRS data are often less detailed in reporting on high incomes than New York tax data. Still, the Sommeiller-Price report is invaluable in providing comparable annual estimates for all states over a nearly century-long period, and presents that data in an easily accessible format where readers can view summary income trends for individual states.
Highlights for New York include:
The lop-sided growth in incomes seen in New York State since 1979 is true to some extent for all states, according to the new report, although it has been particularly pronounced in New York. The percentage point increase in the top 1% income share from 1979-2007 was 21.1 in New York, nearly twice the 11.8 percentage point increase in the top 1% share nationally.
FPI’s state budget briefing provides an overview of economic conditions in the Empire State, including income polarization, continued high unemployment, severe economic hardships, rising poverty and economic insecurity. FPI suggests several budget, tax and economic policy ideas that New York’s leaders should consider to address this heightened economic insecurity and the growing income polarization that has spawned that insecurity. See An Economic Policy Agenda to Address Income Inequality, pp. 83-89 in the budget briefing book.
January 6, 2014. Governor Cuomo in unveiling his tax proposals today has identified a key issue in growing the state’s economy—reducing the property tax burden on New Yorkers, and we agree. The Fiscal Policy Institute has long proposed a circuit breaker as a solution to the burden of high property taxes on moderate and lower income families and to ensure that retirees are not forced out of their homes. What the governor could have added is that creating strong, stable, middle class neighborhoods promotes a better business climate that will create new business opportunities and jobs.
But even the circuit breaker credit for homeowners and the proposed renters’ credit should be provided in a way that does not reduce the amount of state revenue that could be used to make up for the years of cuts and freezes in aid to local governments and public schools. The report of the Governor’s Tax Reform and Fairness Commission shows that it is possible to provide thoughtful tax cuts in a revenue neutral manner.
New York State has lived though five consecutive years of austerity budgets under which those in most need have had to sacrifice. Now the Governor proposes to use the savings from those “bad times” budgets and to implement three additional years of austerity budgeting in order to provide tax breaks that are projected to reduce state revenue by $2 billion a year in 2016-17. That is why the $500-$600 million in estate tax cuts that heavily benefit the very largest estates is so hard to justify, particularly in light of the fact the state is attracting more not less millionaires according to state tax records. The Solomon-McCall Commission also made a compelling case for paying for any corporate tax “reforms” through trimming back some of the $1.7 billion in various business tax breaks that can’t be supported by clear evidcence of their effectiveness.
This austerity approach would place additional pressure on local programs which have already been hit hard—at a time when the needs are high and local reserves have been substantially depleted. Local officials are rightfully calling foul as the state pays for tax cuts at the expense of aid to localities; aid which is needed to provide the infrastructure and the services that are necessary to attract businesses to their communities.
A better way to improve the economic climate of the state would be to:
November 14, 2013. Statement from Ron Deutsch, Executive Director, New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, and Frank Mauro, Executive Director, Fiscal Policy Institute.
Any discussion of fair taxation in New York must acknowledge that our state has the greatest income inequality in the nation and that our tax system is partially to blame. We are experiencing record child poverty rates and levels of hunger and homelessness that are unprecedented. Too many of our residents are suffering and struggling to make ends meet and today’s report by the Governor’s Tax Reform and Fairness Commission does little to address this growing problem. The report discusses expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, which we believe would be a great mechanism to begin to help these desperate families. Noticeably absent are any proposals to address the state’ income tax structure which needs to be made more progressive in order to begin to raise the needed revenues to address our growing income inequality and which the Commission was originally charged with examining.
The Governor’s Tax Reform and Fairness Commission has developed a package of tax options that is literally a smorgasbord of reforms with a little something for everyone. We support many of the proposals from the Commission and strongly support scaling back our system of tax credits to big business and making them more accountable and transparent.
While the commission did meet with our organizations and a number of business, labor and tax reform groups, the broader public, the people that pay taxes, need a chance to weigh in. We strongly recommend that the Governor’s office and the Commission hold a series of public hearings to get input from the general public on these critically important tax issues. We further recommend that the Commission develop a website to post their findings and take recommendations from the public.
We applaud the commission for submitting revenue neutral recommendations. Further draining state revenues at a time when needs are so great would be a huge mistake. Further cuts in essential state and local public services would create an unwarranted drag on the economy in the short run and hurt the state’s economic competitiveness in the long run.
The report raises a number of questions:
The report mentions the possibility of providing some sort of targeted property tax relief for residents (by tying your property tax burden to your income—commonly called a circuit breaker). We believe that this is the most important and critical tax relief mechanisms recommended in the report and were happy to see its inclusion.
A Fiscal Policy Institute analysis of the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) microdata confirms that hundreds of thousands of low, moderate and middle-income families in New York State are already paying an inordinate share of their income in property taxes on their primary residences. The situation in which these families find themselves will not be addressed by New York’s cap on the growth of local governments’ property tax levies. Only a middle-class Circuit Breaker can provide effective relief for these families in a targeted and cost-efficient manner. The report recommends that $400 million of the revenue that would be generated by eliminating the sales tax exemption on clothing under $110 be used to “provide broad-based real property tax relief.” We believe that $400 million is woefully inadequate given the enormity of the excess property tax burden borne by many low- and middle-income households.
The report does, however, say that some or all of another $1 billion that could be generated by other sales tax base broadening could be used for “future” property tax relief. But it also leaves open the possibility that some or all of this revenue could be used for personal income tax relief. It would be extremely unfortunate if some of these resources went to reducing the top rate on the income tax for high-income households at a time when the property tax remains so burdensome for so many low- and middle-income families and when the state continues to cut needed services and insist that it cannot afford to fully fund its foundation formula for public schools.
The Commission’s proposal to eliminate the sales tax exemption on clothing under $110 also requires additional scrutiny. While this proposal is regressive in nature, the Commission recommends “targeted tax relief to ‘make whole’ low- and middle-income taxpayers impacted by the sales tax base broadening.” But the report never presents an incidence analysis of the clothing sales tax exemption; nor does it indicate the income thresholds for this “targeted” tax relief. The report, however, does provide the following information regarding the impact of the state’s sales tax exemptions for “certain necessities” including clothing:
Of the $3.2 billion the State annually forgoes in revenues as a result of these tax exemptions, only $900 million—less than one-third—benefits households earning under $50,000, while households earning in excess of $100,000 reap $1 billion in tax savings.
The report uses this information to argue that exempting necessities from the sales tax is a “highly inefficient way to protect lower income households.” But it never mentions that these figures mean that $1.3 billion of these “savings” go to households with incomes between $50,000 and $100,000. Nor does it indicate how households with incomes in this range would fare on net, factoring in both the elimination of the clothing exemption and the “making whole” of middle-income taxpayers.
The Commission proposes to raise the threshold on the Estate Tax from $1 million to $3 million stating:
The current exemption threshold of $1 million has been criticized as too low given significant increases in the value of assets and concerns that it may serve as a factor in taxpayer migration from New York to other states (e.g. Florida) that do not impose any estate tax.
There seems to be a great deal of worry about wealthy people migrating out of New York State with little concern for the low and middle income families that are moving because they cannot afford the property tax burden. While New York had a high rate of net domestic out-migration from 2000 to 2010, the IRS’s bottom line income tax data shows that New York’s share of the nation’s highest income taxpayers and its share of the income of the nation’s highest income taxpayers increased over this ten-year period. The number of federal taxpayers with Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) above $1 million increased 17.1 percent nationally between 2000 and 2010 but 38.9 percent in New York State! And, the amount of these taxpayers’ AGI increased 20.8 percent nationally but 57.4 percent for federal taxpayers from New York.
November 1, 2013. Beginning today, almost 3.2 million people in New York will see their food assistance benefits cut as the federal government ends a temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The New Yorkers affected by this cut—in what used to be known as the “food stamps” program—include more than 1.2 million children and over 1 million elderly and disabled individuals. Overall, New York residents will receive $332 million less in SNAP benefits in the 11 months from November 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014.
Today’s cut hits all of the more than 47 million Americans, including 22 million children, who currently benefit from SNAP. The boost in benefits expiring today was part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). This increase was implemented to strengthen the economy while easing hardship for needy families.
For a family of three in New York, today’s cut will mean a reduction of $29 each month. This is a serious loss for families whose benefits, after this cut, will average less than $1.40 per person per meal.
“While the Great Recession is officially over, the economy has not bounced back with the strength of previous recoveries. For those families that are suffering the most from our nation’s unacceptably high unemployment and underemployment rates, this is not the right time to eliminate the small but crucial increase in SNAP benefits that the federal government has been providing,” said Frank Mauro of the Fiscal Policy Institute.
In addition to helping to feed hungry families, SNAP is one of the fastest, most effective ways to stimulate a struggling economy. Every $1 increase in SNAP benefits generates about $1.70 in economic activity.
On top of the cuts going into effect today, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation that would cut an additional $40 billion from SNAP, potentially eliminating assistance for at least 211,000 people in New York and nearly 4 million nationwide. That legislation would provide strong financial incentives for states to reduce the number of people receiving assistance, making it significantly harder for struggling families to put food on the table, and completely eliminating assistance for some of the poorest Americans. The House-passed plan for SNAP coupled with today’s cuts would deal a significant blow to millions of Americans who continue to struggle to make ends meet as the economy continues its slow and uneven recovery.
 Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, November 1 SNAP Cuts Will Affect Millions of Children, Seniors, and People with Disabilities: State-by-State Figures Highlight the Impacts Across the Country, October 24, 2013 at http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=4036#interactiveMap.
 A provision in this legislation would allow states to cut off SNAP benefits to most adults if they are not working or participating in a work or training program for at least 20 hours a week. States could keep half of the federal savings from these reductions and use the funds for any purpose. Moreover, states that do not utilize this option would lose all federal matching funds for their SNAP employment and job training programs. This means that states like New York that run strong SNAP employment and training programs would have to choose between altering their current programs to satisfy the new federal requirements, or losing all federal matching funds.
Further information on the upcoming cuts can be found at SNAP Benefits Will Be Cut for All Participants in November 2013, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3899 and Cuts in House Leadership SNAP Proposal Would Affect Millions of Low-Income Americans, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=4009.
October 16, 2013. Fast food jobs are by far the biggest source of job growth in New York State and New York City in this recovery and over the past decade. But, with a median hourly pay of only $8.90 an hour in NYC, this growth in fast food jobs is one of the reasons that poverty has risen sharply during the recovery.
NYC has a record number of working poor—one out of every 10 workers in NYC works, but can’t earn enough to lift their family earnings above the poverty line. The rapid increase in fast food employment is a huge contributor to this condition. The single most important way for NYC to reduce its widening income polarization is to make sure that more workers can earn enough through their labor to rise out of poverty and pay their own way.
A new report documents that the low-wage business model of large fast food chains sticks taxpayers with a huge tab. The study, by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Illinois, shows that the earnings of fast food workers around the country and in New York are so low that over half qualify for one or more forms of public assistance, such as Medicaid or food stamps.
This new study documents the three major challenges faced by fast food workers:
The low-wage business model that drives so much of the fast food industry in the U.S. leaves hundreds of thousands of its workers with no choice but to apply for Medicaid and food stamps. This costs taxpayers an estimated $7 billion per year.
Yet, as a companion report by the National Employment Law Project shows, the 10 largest fast food chains in the country are very profitable and pay their top executives in the millions. Last year, the 10 largest fast food chains booked $7.4 billion in profits and paid their CEOs an average of over $7 million each. These 10 corporations employed 2.25 million workers in the U.S., costing taxpayers an estimated $3.8 billion based on their low-wage business model.
According to the Berkeley-Illinois report, there are 104,000 front-line fast food workers in New York State receiving an estimated $708 million in publicly-funded subsidies such as Medicaid and food stamps. Three out of every 5 fast food workers in NYS received one or more forms of public assistance.
Last year, NYC’s fast food restaurants employed 57,000 workers. Over the past 4 years, the number of fast food jobs in NYC increased by nearly 30%, almost 10 times as fast as the 3% overall increase in private sector employment over that period. The number of fast food outlets in the five boroughs grew even faster, by 42% from 4,600 in 2008, to 6,600 in 2012.
Manhattan has 2,400 fast food outlets employing over 25,000 workers. While average annual wages in the fast food industry were $19,100 in Manhattan in 2012, average wages were much lower in the other boroughs, ranging from $14,000 in Staten Island to $15,500 in Brooklyn.
Since 2000 (first half of 2000 to first half of 2013), in the downstate suburbs and upstate New York, the growth in the number of fast food jobs alone is nearly as great as the net gain of 38,000 jobs in total public and private employment, according to data from the New York State Labor Department.
Because of their visibility and rapid growth, prominent fast food chains exert a dominant force in pay practices at the low end of the job market. Their low-wage business model involves paying workers so little that 60% of the fast food workers in New York State have to turn to food stamps, Medicaid or other public subsidies just to get by. This practice keeps the profits of giant fast food chains high by shifting part of their labor costs to taxpayers. It would be far better if fast food workers were paid wages that allowed them to pay their own way.
October 9, 2013. Income inequality has emerged as a major issue in the 2013 New York City mayoral campaign, and media coverage has frequently included mention of FPI’s research on income polarization.
FPI’s work featured prominently in a special issue of The Nation devoted to The Gilded City in April, with several graphics based on FPI’s research. The lead article in The Nation’s special issue featured FPI’s latest estimates of the share of income in New York State and City going to the wealthiest 1% and compared that to the national trend estimated by economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty.
On the eve of the September 10 primary, City Limits ran a major article by Gail Robinson, “What the Campaign’s Focus on Inequality Means for New York.” FPI was quoted and cited in several places in that article, along with quotes from several other low-income advocates around the city. A national Associated Press article appeared the weekend before the primary that focused on the theme of economic extremes in New York City—the article cited FPI data on the growth in the 1%’s income share since 1980.
The Sunday September 7 New York Post featured an article on FPI’s The State of Working New York 2013 report issued for Labor Day, highlighting FPI’s analysis showing that most of the job growth since the beginning of the 2008-09 recession has been in the lowest-wage sectors. For a feature article in the September 21 New York Daily News two weekends later, FPI prepared a special analysis of job changes in New York City since 2000 showing the decline in middle-class jobs. That article also ran a chart with FPI’s estimates of under-employment rates by gender and race-ethnicity for New York City.
There have also been a spate of articles looking back on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 12 years in office, with many of those noting how disparate the fortunes of rich and poor have become. Ken Auletta’s retrospective on the Mayor’s terms in The New Yorker at the end of August cited FPI’s data on the city’s widening income disparity, lack of improvement on the poverty front, and dramatic two-thirds increase in food stamp rolls since the recession began. An article in the Sunday New York Times in mid-August by Ginia Bellafante cited FPI’s data on the growth in the 1%’s income share over the past decade and drew upon FPI’s analysis of income trends across neighborhoods in the city over the past decade. This article drew from James Parrott’s mid-August presentation on income equality in New York City at the annual conference of the American Sociological Association.
In a Room for Debate column for the New York Times that appeared on August 12, FPI’s Parrott addressed the question of the economic challenges faced by the next Mayor, with a piece titled, “Promote Equitable Growth.”
As part of its ongoing work providing data on economic trends to reporters, CUNY business journalism professor Greg David published FPI’s revised estimates of the 1% income share in the city, the state and the U.S. in an article in Crain’s New York Business on September 19. David also noted FPI’s estimates that the rich pay a smaller share of New York City taxes than their share of income, helping to put in perspective an argument often cited by Mayor Bloomberg, that, in David’s words, “inequality is okay because the rich pay all the taxes.”
September 20, 2014. The latest data from the Census Bureau for 2012 show that while NYC median family incomes and poverty stabilized last year, we are still a very long way from undoing the deterioration caused by the 2008-09 recession. Most NYC families have been battered by the recession and the historically weak recovery. Adjusted for inflation, median family incomes dipped slightly in 2012 (but not significantly) and are $3,800 or 6.5% below the 2008 level. Nationally, inflation-adjusted median family incomes dropped by $5,000 or 7.5% from 2008 to 2012.
This income erosion among NYC residents results partly from a 2.8% drop in real median wage earnings, which fell by $1,000 from $35,000 in 2008 to $34,000 in 2012. This drop, in turn, stems from a disproportionate increase in part-time employment. Median wage earnings for both men and women working full-time, year-round, have risen by about 3% in inflation-adjusted terms over the past four years. On the other hand, the percent of the working age population that is employed was 56.8% in 2012, considerably below the 58.7% from 2008.
NYC’s poverty rate climbed from 18.2% in 2008 to 21.2% in 2012, an increase of 3.0 percentage points, more than for the nation as a whole. The U.S. poverty rate went from 13.2% to 15.9% over this period. Although there was a slight uptick in NYC’s poverty rate in 2012 compared to 2011, it was not a statistically significant change.
The poverty rate among New York City’s children has risen faster than the overall increase. In 2008, 26.5% of the city’s children were growing up in poverty households. By 2012, that number had risen to 31.4%.
The number of city residents living in “deep poverty,” considered to be half the official poverty threshold, increased from 2008 to 2012 even faster than the city’s overall poverty increase.
Since the start of the recession, 243,000 more city residents have fallen into poverty, bringing the total to 1.7 million out of a population of 8.2 million. For 2012, the federal poverty threshold for a 3-person family was $18,284.
In 2012, 410,000 workers, or one out of every 10, were paid wages that kept them in poverty. These 410,000 constitute the “working poor”, i.e., those who work either part-time or full-time but whose earnings are too low to lift their family incomes above the poverty line.
Reflecting the widespread hardships induced by the recession and slow recovery, the share of the city’s population receiving food stamps jumped from 14.9% in 2008 to 21% in 2012.
The city desperately needs the sort of recovery that shares the fruits of economic growth with all workers, rather than continuing to be heavily concentrated in the hands of a small elite. According to the latest Census Bureau data for 2012, there has been no significant lessening of New York City’s extreme inequality since 2007.
September 19, 2013. Poverty remained high at 16 percent and incomes stagnant in New York last year, showing the continuing pain of the recession and underscoring the need for New York to do more to help struggling people and give them the tools to lift themselves out of poverty. Over 3 million people in New York lived under the federal poverty level in 2012 when no statistically significant change in the overall poverty rate occurred from 2011, according to new Census Bureau data released today. This represents more than one in six people in poverty across the state.
Poverty levels also remained unchanged upstate and continued to be higher than in New York City and the state overall. This is particularly true in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse where overall poverty rates are 31 percent or higher—twice the figure for New York State.
Specifically disconcerting are the poverty rates for children in 2012 that remained higher than the poverty rate for all New Yorkers. The level of poverty experienced by related children under 18 years of age—22.6 percent—is close to 50 percent higher than the rate of poverty across the state. This represents just under one million children, or almost one in four kids, living in poverty in 2012. Poverty rates for children in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse are most stark at close to or more than 50 percent since 2010—twice the poverty rate for all children in New York State over this period.
September 19, 2013. The statewide family poverty rate (i.e., the percentage of families with incomes below the poverty level) in New York State was virtually the same in 2012 (12.2%) as in 2011 (12.3%). These poverty rates were greater, to a statistically significant degree, than New York State’s family poverty rate of 10.3% in 2007, the year before the onset of the Great Recession in December 2007 nationally and in New York State in the Spring of 2008.
The statewide family poverty rate of 12.2%, however, masks tremendous differences geographically and between homeowners and renters. Only five counties, for example, had family poverty rates above 12.9% in 2012 but, in several of those counties, the rates were significantly higher. These five counties and their family poverty rates are:
At the other end of the spectrum, are the following seven counties:
There is also a significant difference between the family poverty rates in large cities and their suburbs. This distinction is even greater than that shown by the following comparison of family poverty rates in counties and cities, since the county rates are greatly influenced by their city rates.
These disparities are also apparent when we compare the family poverty rates for homeowners and renters by county. For the counties with large urban centers, these disparities are a rough proxy for the difference between the family poverty rates in the central cities and their suburbs. These disparities are daunting. In all the upstate counties with relatively large central cities, except Albany County, the family poverty rate for renters was over 30% while the poverty rate for home-owning families was under 5% in every one of these counties, and below 3.5% in Erie, Monroe, Onondaga, Albany and Schenectady. The specific disparities are as follows.
Family Poverty Rates for Upstate Counties with Large Urban Centers, by Housing Tenure
Erie County (including the City of Buffalo)
Homeowners 3.4%, Renters 31.3%
Monroe County (including the City of Rochester)
Homeowners 2.6%, Renters 34.1%
Onondaga County (including the City of Syracuse)
Homeowners 2.7%, Renters 33.6%
Albany County (including the City of Albany)
Homeowners 3.4%, Renters 20.2%
Schenectady County (including the City of Schenectady)
Homeowners 2.3%, Renters 32.9%
Broome County (including the City of Binghamton)
Homeowners 4.3%, Renters 37.1%
Oneida County (including the City of Utica)
Homeowners 4.4%, Renters 38.2%
Niagara County (including the City of Niagara Falls)
Homeowners 3.8%, Renters 38.5%
 The 1-Year estimates release today only cover jurisdictions with populations above 65,000. Meeting this population threshold were 39 of New York’s 62 counties, and 10 “places” including Cheektowaga CDP (which stands for Census Defined Place) and the cities of Albany, Buffalo, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, New York City, Rochester, Schenectady, Syracuse and Yonkers.