Poverty in New York City During the Bloomberg Years: How an Anchored Poverty Threshold Better Reflects Progress

With much fanfare, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a new poverty measure for New York City in 2008. Following national experts’ recommendations, his team produced a supplemental poverty measure that added all government benefits as resources. But it also used a relative threshold. While everyone agreed that adding government benefits was important, using the relative threshold may have understated progress in New York City and left doubt about the city’s approach to reduce poverty over the past decade.

In this paper, we show that if an anchored threshold similar to what other researchers use at the national level had been used, poverty in New York City, especially among children, would have declined quite substantially during the Bloomberg years. The implications are important moving forward, as New York City’s current mayor takes a different approach to fighting poverty, rolling back some of Bloomberg’s efforts. An anchored poverty measure will be needed to more fully evaluate the effectiveness of the current administration’s approach.

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