July 24, 2001. A new national study confirms that New York families need incomes well above “poverty level” to make ends meet. Fully 37.5% of New York families with young children do not earn enough to afford basic necessities. In a press release (below), FPI compares the results of a new national study by Economic Policy Institute, Hardships in America: The Real Story of Working Families, to The Self Sufficiency Standard for New York released last fall.

Also see – an Excel spreadsheet showing EPI’s calculations of the basic budgets necessary for families of different sizes to live in each of New York State’s metropolitan areas.

What do Hawaii, New Mexico, Montana and Idaho have in common?

According to a study released today in Washington, DC by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), they are the only four states in the entire country that rank above New York State in terms of the percentage of families with young children who do not earn enough to afford the basic necessities of life – food, clothing, shelter, child care, transportation, etc.

The new EPI study, Hardships in America: The Real Story of Working Families, calculated “Basic Family Budgets” for families with children under age 12 for each of 337 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and for the rural areas of each of the 50 states. It then compared data on family incomes from the Census Bureau’s 1998, 1999 and 2000 Current Population Surveys to these “Basic Family Budgets.” It found that, over this period, an estimated 37.5% of New York State families with children under age 12 had incomes below the “Basic Family Budget” for their geographic area. This was well above the national average of 27.6% and completely out of step with the situation in New York’s neighboring states, in which the percentage of families experiencing such hardship ranged from 17.9% in Connecticut to 28.4% in Vermont.

Percent of Families with Children with incomes below the “Basic Family Budget” levels for their areas

1 Hawaii 45.7%
2 New Mexico 40.2%
3 Montana 39.8%
4 Idaho 36.1%
5 New York 37.5%
22 Vermont 28.4%
23 Massachusetts 27.9%
U.S. Average 27.6%
33 Pennsylvania 23.7%
38 New Jersey 21.0%
47 Connecticut 17.9%

EPI calculated its “Basic Family Budgets” using a methodology similar to that used in the preparation of the New York State Self Sufficiency Standard Report which was released last September by a coalition of research and advocacy groups that focus on the well-being of low and moderate income New Yorkers. The findings of the two studies are very similar, documenting that “getting by” in New York State requires a family to earn much more than the federal poverty level

Comparison of “Basic Family Budgets” from EPI’s new Hardships in America report with last September’s Self-Sufficiency Standard for New York report:

Geographic Area New EPI Study New York
Self-Sufficiency Standard

Albany-Schenectady-Troy MSA



Binghamton MSA



Buffalo-Niagara Falls MSA



Dutchess County MSA



Elmira MSA



Glens Falls MSA



Jamestown MSA



Nassau-Suffolk MSA



New York PMSA



Newburgh MSA (N.Y. portion



Rochester MSA



Syracuse MSA



Utica-Rome MSA



Nonmetropolitan Counties




For households of particular sizes and types, the federal poverty line is the same for all families, regardless of whether they live in New York City or Mississippi. For example, the poverty line for a married couple family with two children, anywhere in the United States, would be $17,463. The EPI Basic Family Budgets and the New York Self-Sufficiency Standard are better benchmarks for income adequacy because they recognize the significant differences in the cost of basic living in different communities. Using a market-basket approach, both studies identify budget items necessary for a family to maintain a safe and decent standard of living then determine how much it costs to provide each item at an adequate level in a specific location.