New York, NY—Today, Robin Hood announced the release of the Poverty Tracker survey results, developed in partnership with Columbia University’s Population Research Center. This quarterly survey of 2,300 households throughout the five boroughs and across all income levels is designed to take a deeper, more realistic look at disadvantage among New Yorkers.

The goal is to capture rich details on household expenditures, income and government supports, and to collect information about material hardships and family/child well-being that other surveys simply overlook. Another novel feature of The Poverty Tracker is that it captures the dynamics of poverty: how low-income residents respond to difficult circumstances over time.

The Poverty Tracker’s data reveals that poverty and hardship are worse for New York City residents than official measures indicate.

According to the first wave of results, nearly four in 10 New Yorkers (37%) suffered one or more severe material hardships during 2012. This means that individuals and families faced a persistent shortage of critical resources or underwent an episode of acute deprivation (such as staying in a shelter, moving in with others, or being unable to afford utilities, medical care, or food).

While official census figures show that 21% of City residents live in poverty, our survey reveals that poverty, correctly measured, is higher at about 23%. While this increase may not sound dramatic, it equates to an approximate 170,000 additional New Yorkers living in poverty.

In total, 53% of New Yorkers experienced at least one of the following: poverty, severe material hardship, or a work-limiting health issue. These numbers are more than just depressing statistics: they represent approximately 4 million people struggling on a regular basis.

“Robin Hood’s mission is to fight poverty in New York City, and to do so effectively requires an accurate picture of how New Yorkers are faring day-to-day,” said Michael Weinstein, Chief Program Officer of Robin Hood. “Our hope is that the Poverty Tracker will become an effective tool in the fight against poverty, and be used as a resource by both private and public funders to design more effective programs to help New Yorkers in need.”

“Tracking incomes over time is important,” said Christopher Wimer, Project Director for the Poverty Tracker study at CPRC, “but it’s not the whole story. Many policies and programs make a difference for low-income families without directly improving their incomes. With our more comprehensive measures of disadvantage we will be able to see what’s really happening to New Yorkers over time – something that up until now hasn’t been possible in New York City.”

The Poverty Tracker surveyed 2,300 households across the five boroughs beginning in December 2012 and March 2013, and included residents from all income brackets; surveys have continued on a quarterly basis and will continue for two years. After two years, a new panel of households will be recruited and quarterly surveys will start anew. Subsequent surveys will gather more detailed information on the health and wellbeing of respondents and their children, setbacks or improvements to their home and family lives, changes to their assets and debts, and their experiences with New York City’s government and social services.

To see the full Poverty Tracker report, visit

About Columbia School of Social Work

Columbia School of Social Work has been a leader in social work education and research since 1898. It joins rigorous academic theory with real-world practice to enhance the welfare of citizens and communities in New York City, the nation, and around the world.

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