Region-wide statistics mask pockets of poverty in Mid-Hudson Valley

Region-wide statistics mask pockets of poverty in Mid-Hudson Valley

Published On: 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The issues facing people with low incomes have claimed an appropriate place in many of our recent national debates – about expanding access to health care, boosting our economy, and ensuring that our food stamp program is adequate. As a region, the Mid-Hudson Valley has higher income levels and lower poverty rates than the nation – but the region-wide figures mask significant and rising poverty rates in some areas.

Median household income in the region was more than $68,000 in 2007-11, up slightly (0.3%) from 2000 – compared to a national median of less than $53,000 that had fallen 7% since 2000. About 11% of people had incomes below the federal poverty level, compared to 15% in the nation.

However, in cities in the region, poverty rates exceeded 15% and had risen since 2000 in Poughkeepsie (to 25%) and Newburgh (to 26%). This means a quarter of the population in those cities lives below the federal poverty level, which varies based on size and composition of a household. In 2011, the threshold for a family of four with two children was $22,800 – very low compared to most incomes throughout the region and relative to the cost of living.

Poverty is associated with a range of challenges, including lower educational opportunities, less access to quality health care and nutritious food, and challenges finding quality, affordable housing—not to mention the simple daily challenges of making ends meet with low-wage or no jobs. Researchers are increasingly studying and documenting the disadvantages and limitations associated with growing up and living in poor communities in hopes of empowering communities with information and strategies for addressing these challenges.

Poverty rates among children are higher than those for the overall population, with 15% of children in the region and 20% nationwide living in poverty. In cities in our region, the levels were as high as 37% in Poughkeepsie (up 5 percentage points from 2000) and 36% in Newburgh in 2007-11.

Additional disparities exist among different racial and ethnic groups. Poverty rates were higher for African American and Hispanic residents in the region, 19% and 17%, respectively, than for Asian and White residents (both 9%). Here too, the rates were higher and disparities more significant for children, with 26% of African American and 22% of Hispanic children in the region living in poverty.

Poverty underlies many of the most critical issues facing the Mid-Hudson Valley and regions across the county, and the disparities among different geographies and racial and ethnic groups are pervasive. But clearly understanding who in our community is most affected by poverty is an important first step in discussing and addressing the issue.

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