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Report: NY’s Child Poverty Rate is One of the Worst in U.S.


New York State’s child poverty rate is one of the worst in the nation. According to a report released by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, New York ranked 41st in the nation in 2022. The rate was at least six percentage points higher than states that border New York and second highest among its five most populous peer states: California, Florida, Texas, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

The report also found nearly one in five New York children live in poverty. More than 2.7 million New Yorkers were living in poverty in 2022, and more than a quarter (735,742) were children. Under the Official Poverty Measure (OPM), 18.8% of New York’s children were in poverty in 2022. Almost half of all children living in poverty in the state are in deep poverty, meaning they are in a household with income that is 50% below the federal poverty line. An individual or household is considered to be in poverty when they do not have the financial resources to meet basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter, or access to a minimum standard of living, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.

DiNapoli’s report stated the gap in child poverty rates between New York and the U.S. has been widening since 2019. A decade ago, child poverty rates in New York and the nation were equivalent, at about 22.8%. Since 2021, child poverty has continued to decrease nationally but not in New York, producing a gap of 2.5 percentage points. If New York’s 2022 rates were equivalent to the national average, approximately 100,000 fewer children would be in poverty.

Poverty in Upstate Cities Among Worst in U.S.

When compared to other U.S. cities with similar population levels, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo have child poverty rates that are double the average rate of their cohort cities.  Between 40 to 46% of children in Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo were living in poverty in 2022, and they rank second, fifth, and seventh among the largest cities in the U.S. with the highest rates of child poverty.

Child Poverty and COVID Relief

The U.S. Census Bureau has two methods of measuring poverty: the OPM and the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). While OPM is the basis for calculating assistance for many social safety net programs, the SPM is a broader measure based on out-of-pocket household spending that includes the impact of all non-cash benefits. Between 2019 and 2021, the SPM child poverty rate dropped by 54% in the nation and 51% in New York, indicative of how meaningful the COVID relief benefits were to households across the nation. These relief measures included expanded benefits under the Child Tax Credit (CTC); enhanced food benefits (SNAP); and emergency rental assistance, among others. As these programs lapsed, the SPM rates for children doubled (and in some cases tripled) in all but 10 states in 2022. In New York, the rate more than doubled to 20.2%, passing its pre-pandemic level of 18.6% in 2019.

New federal legislation that would expand the current federal CTC passed the House of Representatives on Jan. 31, 2024, but has not passed the Senate. While the proposal would not increase the CTC to 2021 levels, it would significantly improve the benefit for low-income families. DiNapoli urged for the passing of the federal CTC expansion in the Senate and signing by President Biden as soon as possible.

Recent State Policies to Reduce Child Poverty

The New York State Child Poverty Reduction Advisory Council (CPRAC) is working to produce recommendations to reduce child poverty by half by 2031. As recommended in DiNapoli’s 2022 report on New Yorkers in Need, CPRAC is looking to implement evidence-based solutions. In its 2023 Progress Report, CPRAC recognized that a combination of policies will be needed to meet the state’s child poverty reduction goal while balancing the overall cost to the state.

The recently enacted State Budget for State Fiscal Year 2024-25   includes measures that could have near-term impacts on the most severe pockets of child poverty in the state, including a $50 million anti-poverty pilot program using federal funds for families with children living in concentrated areas of poverty in Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo. If this initiative is successful, it could serve as a model to fight child poverty statewide.

“We are grateful to State Comptroller DiNapoli for this important report,” said Nancy Kern Eaton, President of United Way of Central New York. “Poverty has devastating impacts on children, particularly young children. There are few investments with a higher potential of return than funding for strategies to address child poverty. We at United Way share Comptroller DiNapoli’s sense of urgency. We look forward to working with all who are committed to lifting children out of poverty. United, we can build a strong and healthy New York.”

“Our children living in poverty are facing challenges some would find insurmountable,” said Melanie Littlejohn, President & CEO of Central New York Community Foundation.Whether it’s food or housing insecurity, living in uncertainty creates trauma which can impact a child’s long-term ability to be successful in school. Children who fall behind in school are less likely to complete high school and college, making it hard to later become employed. When every child has a safe and reliable place to live, access to healthy and consistent meals, and community schools with wrap-around services, the cycle of poverty begins to crack open, giving our children the opportunity to thrive. This is why the Central New York Community Foundation supports community-based organizations and programs that are committed to addressing the social determinants that often lead to poverty.”

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