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Robin Hood's Panel Study Documents Pervasive Deprivation and Opens Inquiry about the Role of "Shocks"

/ -- Seventy-three Percent of New Yorkers Suffered Serious Deprivation During Three-Year Period

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - October 18, 2016) - The latest report from the Robin Hood/Columbia University Poverty Tracker survey shows that a numbing 73 percent of New Yorkers experienced serious deprivation at some point during the three-year period of the study. The Poverty Tracker, a quarterly survey of the same 2,000 households, examines three types of deprivation: income poverty, severe material hardship (like hunger or suspension of utilities) and poor health.

Earlier quarterly reports from the Poverty Tracker documented persistent deprivation. The latest report confirms that finding.

The report released today "The Persistence of Disadvantage in New York City," opens up a new line of inquiry into the relationship between "shocks" that individual households suffer and deprivation. Specifically, the Poverty Tracker examines five shocks: financial; relationship (divorce); crime (robbery); accident/illness; and arrest. Researchers found a strong correlation between frequency of shocks and persistence of disadvantage. For example, 86 percent of those suffering from persistent hardship also suffered multiple financial shocks. By contrast, only 39 percent of those reporting no hardship over the three years suffered multiple financial shocks. Similarly, 23 percent of those suffering from persistent poverty experienced multiple criminal shocks, while only 13 percent of those who never experienced poverty suffered from similar shocks.

Researchers also analyzed the data by sex, race, immigration status, education and location.

"These new results suggest that the most persistently disadvantaged New Yorkers are the same New Yorkers beset by repeated shocks to their finances and well-being," said Michael Weinstein, chief program officer at Robin Hood. "The question we'll now tackle is to what extent multiple shocks -- like divorce or eviction -- trigger hardship vs. hardships triggering shocks. Protecting families in part from repeated exposure to multiple shocks may help prevent them from experiencing repeated severe and persistent hardship."

Today's report is the fourth in a series that documents findings of a survey of 2,000 households across all income levels throughout the five boroughs. Launched in 2012, the Poverty Tracker is an ongoing initiative of Columbia University's Population Research Center and Robin Hood, the largest poverty-fighting organization in New York. While typical surveys of poverty take an annual snapshot based on the federal government's official, income-based measure, the Poverty Tracker surveys households about a range of hardships and health, in addition to assessing income-based poverty using a more comprehensive measure. It tracks the same families over time to yield a clearer, dynamic picture of poverty in New York City.

"We've long known that annual snapshots of income poverty miss both acute episodes of deprivation and other forms of hardship and disadvantage. But the Poverty Tracker shows just how extensive the experience of such disadvantages can be," said Christopher Wimer, project director for the Poverty Tracker study at Columbia University's Population Research Center.

Additional Poverty Tracker Highlights:

  • Prevalence: Nearly half of all New Yorkers suffer severe deprivation -- meaning they are suffering from low income, material hardships and/or poor health.
  • Persistence: A sobering 37% reported at least one deprivation -- income poverty, severe material hardship or poor health -- in all three years of data collection.
  • Shocks: On average, those New Yorkers experiencing persistent disadvantage were more likely to experience multiple shocks of all kinds.
  • Sex: Women were more likely to experience a spell of poverty than men (52% versus 40%) but there was no difference in the persistence of poverty between men and women.
  • Race: Poverty was least common among whites -- 28% experienced at least one episode of poverty during the three years -- and most common among Hispanics (61%). More than half (57%) of black New Yorkers experienced a spell of poverty during the three years.
  • Age: Young adults were also the most likely to experience poverty at some point during the three years (58%), while adults aged 35 to 64 were the least likely (40%).
  • Foreign born: Immigrants were substantially more likely to have been poor during at least one of the three years (56% versus 40%).
  • Education: The least educated New Yorkers had the highest levels of persistent poverty, hardship and poor health. Only 24% of those with less than a high school education avoided poverty for the entire three-year period, compared with 43% of those with a high school diploma, 49% of those with some college and 75% of those with a college degree or higher.
  • Borough: More than half (55%) of Bronx households were poor during at least one of the survey years, followed by Brooklyn (46%) and Queens (46%). Manhattan had the lowest rate, at 36%.

To explore the data in an interactive visualization (developed by Fathom Information Design) and see the full report, visit

About Robin Hood

Robin Hood, New York's largest poverty-fighting organization, finds, funds and creates over 200 of the most effective programs, to help 1.8 million New Yorkers learn and earn their way out of poverty. Because our board of directors underwrites all operating costs, 100% of your donation goes directly to organizations helping New Yorkers in need. Facebook: Twitter: @robinhoodnyc

About the Columbia Population Research Center

The Columbia Population Research Center (CPRC) is a multidisciplinary community of scholars unified by a commitment to research that addresses the health and wellbeing of vulnerable populations in the context of local and global inequalities and that informs policies affecting those populations. CPRC promotes research in four signature areas: children, youth, and families; gender, sexuality, health and HIV; immigration/migration; and urbanism.


Victoria Grantham
Robin Hood