Poverty has risen dramatically in the New York Jewish community since the previous study in 2002, according to UJA-Federation of New York’s “Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011 Special Report on Poverty,” released on June 6th. More than 560,000 people in approximately 200,000 Jewish households are poor or near-poor, and 45 percent of the children in Jewish households now live in poor or near-poor households. More Jewish people are affected by poverty in the eight-county New York area than there are Jews living in other large Jewish communities such as Chicago or Washington, D.C.
There has been a rapid growth in Jewish poverty in recent years, including in suburban areas. In 1991, there were about 180,000 people living in poor Jewish households; 20 years later, this number has doubled to 360,000, an increase that significantly outpaces the 14 percent growth of the Jewish community as a whole. Approximately 90 percent of poor Jewish households are located in New York City, as are 84 percent of near-poor households. Yet poverty in the suburbs has also increased, growing by 86 percent since 2002.
“With this latest report of the ‘Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011,’ we have a detailed picture of one of the greatest challenges facing the Jewish community today,” said Jerry W. Levin, president of UJA-Federation. “When coupled with the previously released comprehensive and geographic profile reports, we now have a remarkably thorough and actionable understanding of the New York Jewish community as a whole. UJA-Federation, our network of agencies, and others in our community can now use these insights to advance our mission in the months and years to come.”
The new report found that Jewish poverty in the eight-county New York area affects widely diverse groups of Jewish households. Single-parent households, households that include a person with a disability, and others who are unemployed or underemployed are also heavily represented among the Jewish poor. But it is also concentrated in Hasidic, Russian-speaking, and senior households, which account for two-thirds of the poverty in the Jewish community.
“Sacred responsibility” to care for those in need
“The sheer scale of Jewish poverty in the New York area is immense, and the Jewish community has a sacred responsibility to care for those in need,” said John S. Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO of UJA-Federation of New York. “UJA-Federation and its network agencies already lead multiple efforts to address the needs of impoverished members of the New York Jewish community. Working with our network agencies including the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, we provide a broad range of services and provide swift and effective responses following crises, ranging from the recession to Hurricane Sandy. Moving forward, we will use the study to develop laser-like approaches that can maximize the availability of services and help the most vulnerable live with more security, dignity, and, we hope, the embrace of community.”
“The numbers largely confirm what we’ve seen happening in grassroots Jewish communities, making clear to us that this wrenching situation is only growing in scope,” said William E. Rapfogel, CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, a network agency of UJA-Federation of New York that played a key consulting role in this report. “Poverty is a complex problem that touches far more people than many would think, and these findings will help us further focus and better advocate as we continue to provide critical services to all those who are struggling.”
The decennial poverty report defined poor households as ones whose annual income is less than 150 percent of the 2010 federal poverty guideline. For the first time, the report includes comprehensive data about Jewish near-poor households, households with annual income between 150 percent and 250 percent of the 2010 federal poverty guideline. A significant portion of poor and near-poor households include someone who is either working full-time or self-employed.
“Too many people in the Jewish community are either living in poverty or at risk of slipping into poverty,” said Scott Shay, chair of the “Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011.” “While the federal government is the primary safety net for most poor and near-poor families, a central value of the Jewish community has for millennium been caring for the poor and we therefore should use the data from the report to guide our help in protecting the most vulnerable, as well as to offer support, services, and advocacy.”
UJA-Federation engaged Jewish Policy and Action Research (JPAR) to conduct the Jewish Community Study of New York. JPAR is a strategic alliance between Ukeles Associates, Inc., and Social Science Research Solutions, and together they have worked on 21 Jewish community studies across the United States. Dr. Jacob B. Ukeles was the lead author of the poverty report.
“Poverty in the Jewish community continues to grow at an alarming rate, much faster than the Jewish community as a whole” said Dr. Ukeles. “This report will help emphasize the magnitude of the problem, and provide a more data-driven framework for communal decision making.”
A list of major findings
MAJOR FINDINGS OF THE
2011 SPECIAL REPORT ON JEWISH POVERTY
Poverty impacts an enormous and growing number of people in the Jewish community in the eight-county New York area.
- More than 560,000 people live in nearly 200,000 poor and near-poor Jewish households.
- One in five New York-area Jewish households is poor. In New York City alone: one in four.
- One in 10 New York-area Jewish households is near poor.
- There are twice as many people living in poor Jewish households today as there were in 1991.
- Fourteen percent of the Jewish poor and 9 percent of the Jewish near poor say they cannot make ends meet, and more than 60 percent of both groups say they are just managing to make ends meet.
There are many types of poor Jewish households and the mix is changing.
- Forty-five percent of all children in Jewish households live in poor or near-poor Jewish households.
- The percentage of poor households with children increased from 22 percent of all poor Jewish households in 2002 to 28 percent in 2011.
- The percentage of poor households with seniors has decreased from 50 percent in 2002 to 43 percent in 2011.
- In 46 percent of poor households with working-age respondents, either the respondent or spouse (or both) is working full-time or is self-employed.
- In 57 percent of near-poor households, either the respondent or spouse (or both) is employed full-time or are self-employed.
There are many faces of the Jewish poor.
- The largest group of poor Jewish households in the New York area is Russian-speaking seniors.
- Russian-speaking seniors have the highest incidence (percent) of poverty of any group in the New York Jewish community.
- Hasidic households have the second-largest number of poor households and the largest number of people in poor Jewish households. They also rank near the top in the number of near poor and the incidence of near poverty.
- Senior households that are not Russian-speaking rank third in the number of poor Jewish households, but rank first in the number of near-poor Jewish households.
Poor and near-poor Jewish households are concentrated in New York City, but the numbers are growing in all three suburban counties in the study area.
- Ninety percent of poor Jewish households and 84 percent of near-poor Jewish households are located in New York City.
- The number of poor Jewish households in the suburbs increased 86 percent since 2002.
- Two out of three poor Jewish households in New York City are in Brooklyn, where the number of poor Jewish households grew by over a quarter (16,000, or 27 percent).
- Queens is the only county in which poverty decreased, but it is home to a quarter of all near-poor Jewish households in the area — second only to Brooklyn.
- Manhattan saw a 74 percent increase in its number of poor Jewish households since 2002 — the largest percent increase in New York City.
Public benefits are crucial in supporting poor Jewish households.
- Three out of four poor Jewish households and half of near-poor Jewish households receive at least one out of eight public benefits.
- The SNAP program (formerly food stamps) is the public benefit most widely used by poor Jewish households — nearly half (48 percent) report receiving supplemental nutrition assistance.
- Poor and near-poor households are much more likely to seek human services and are more likely than the non-poor to have difficulty accessing the services they seek.