On Thursday, September 14, the Census Bureau reported that, while poverty rates have improved across the United States, the poverty rate in Syracuse, NY has worsened.
According to Syracuse.com, new Census data finds that incomes from the American middle class have increased to the highest level yet recorded while the country’s general poverty rating has dropped to 12.7%.
Yet Syracuse isn’t quite following in grandeur. In 2016, the city was rated as the 13th worst city for poverty. And other Upstate New York cities aren’t faring much better.
According to Census data, Buffalo is ranked as the 23rd worst city for poverty and Rochester as the 12th. However, both Buffalo and Rochester’s poverty has declined whereas Syracuse’s has increased from 31% to 32.1%. In just 2015, Syracuse was listed as having the 29th worst poverty rating.
“We have a new kind of class differentiation going on,” said Tom Hirschl, professor of Development Sociology at Cornell University. “Some people are doing very well, and many people with higher educations are doing very well with income and wealth. But the economy is just not delivering with large segments of people who are out of the labor force.”
The poorest people, Hirschl said, have been left behind in Upstate New York while the rest of the country continues to recover from the Great Recession. Developments in AI and robotics are increasingly forcing manufacturing workers out of jobs. However, newer jobs that open doors for higher pay require college degrees that many of these Americans simply can’t afford.
“We have a class of people that are excluded from adequate opportunities in the labor market,” said Hirschl. “It seems very clear what we see happening, and it’s most intense in Upstate New York…”
In addition to not being able to afford college to apply for higher paying jobs, many Americans have fallen into debt due to the housing crisis. While VA loans allow for 100% financing and don’t require mortgage insurance, other mortgage loans often have high interest rates and may cause homeowners to become delinquent on payments. It’s these loans, specifically subprime loans, that helped spur the foreclosure crisis.
Poverty rates in Syracuse aren’t the only things increasing. According to Syracuse.com, the racial disparities between income is grotesque. A 2015 study by Rutgers University professor Paul Jargowsky shows that Syracuse had the highest rate of extreme poverty with a concentration among black and Latinx populations.
Across the country, the average income for black Americans came to a total of $34,490 whereas the average income for white Americans was $65,000. In Syracuse, the average income for a family of four is $33,695. The federal government defines poverty as a family of four living on a total income of $24,339.