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,[1] 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:

  • Bronx, 28.8%
  • Kings (Brooklyn), 20.8%
  • Chautauqua, 15.8%
  • Sullivan, 15.6%
  • New York (Manhattan), 15.1%

At the other end of the spectrum, are the following seven counties:

  • Rensselaer, 6.4%
  • Dutchess, 5.8%
  • Suffolk, 5.0%
  • Tompkins, 4.8%
  • Nassau, 4.6%
  • Putnam, 3.9%
  • Saratoga, 3.3%

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.

  • Albany County 8.2%, City of Albany 15.2%
  • Erie County 10.2%, City of Buffalo 25.7%
  • Monroe County 11.0%, City of Rochester 29.4%
  • Onondaga County 10.0%, City of Syracuse 29.8%
  • Schenectady County 8.6%, City of Schenectady 19.5%
  • Westchester County 7.5%, City of Mount Vernon 14.4%, City of New Rochelle 8.9%, and City of Yonkers 14.0%

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%

[1] 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.