New Census Data Reveal How Rising Income Inequality is Driving the Inequities at the Core of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Released September 24, 2020
In 2019, the richest quintile of New Yorkers earned seven times more annual income than those in the bottom quintile, according to a new analysis from Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York. The increasingly uneven distribution of incomes created deeply entrenched inequities, increasing the health, housing, education, and safety risks to low-income children during the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed in stark terms how poverty and related factors place some New Yorkers at far greater risk than others, and low-income families are faced with painful, stress-inducing choices around paying rent, finding childcare, and supporting loved ones,” said Jennifer March, CCC’s executive director. “As the city and state face revenue shortfalls and tough budgetary choices, it must be stated: overcoming the wounds of this public health crisis will not be possible without addressing the vulnerabilities born of economic inequality.”
CCC’s analysis examines data released last week by the US Census Bureau from their annual American Community Survey, a survey of millions of households nationwide conducted each year to provide community-level information on demographics, economic conditions, housing and more. Continuing a dispiriting rise over the last decade, incomes for New Yorkers at the top of the economic ladder continued to outpace those at the bottom in 2019:
The consequences of rising income inequality hit families of color and single mothers the hardest, exacerbating deep vulnerabilities for children from low-income households.
CCC analyzed the income distribution among families with children, splitting them into income quintiles to consider how the lowest quintile families (making $24,834 or less annually) compare with the highest quintile families (making $156,017 or more). The findings highlight the unique challenges that Black and Latina single mothers face and underscore how inequality is not purely a matter of economic class:
CCC’s analysis shows how extreme inequality reproduces economic, health, housing, education, and digital inequities, posing immense risks to the well-being of low-income children and barriers to their economic mobility:
In light of these findings, CCC urges government leaders to ensure that the needs of children from low-income communities are prioritized in both short-term recovery efforts and longer-term strategies that will promote child well-being and mitigate future crises.
To generate the necessary revenue for a fair and sustainable recovery and prevent cuts to vital services, CCC is calling for federal stimulus with direct aid to states and cities, federal and state revenue raisers and tax policy reforms, and for New York State lawmakers to grant municipal borrowing authority to the City of New York.
Federal, state, and local resources generated from these actions are critical to ensuring targeted investments in the safety net and building blocks of child development will not only help families escape the current deprivation caused by the pandemic, but also ensure families in the lowest income quintile do not face such heightened risks in the midst of future crises:
“Across all measures of well-being, the data demonstrate that income inequality poses risk factors and prevents upward mobility for low-income families and their children,” said Bijan Kimiagar, CCC’s associate executive director for research. “Overcoming the wounds of this public health crisis will not be possible without addressing the social and economic vulnerabilities which enabled the virus to wreak havoc disproportionately on communities color in New York City. Extreme economic inequality and poverty are eminently surmountable. We just need to summon the will to act.”
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