Census: Gap between rich, poor grows in NY

Over the past five years, Long Island's poverty Over the past five years, Long Island's poverty rate rose while median household incomes declined, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Photo Credit: iStock

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New York is one of 20 states where the income gap between rich and poor residents widened between 2010 and 2011, according to a state demographer's analysis of 2011 census data released Thursday.

The official with the State Data Center, which compiles economic and demographic data for New York State, said the income inequality resulted from the "great wealth" here, as well as high levels of poverty.

The 2011 one-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey did not allow for a comprehensive comparison of regions throughout the state, said the data center official, who asked not to be named, citing agency policy. That's because the one-year estimates cover only counties and other census-designated areas that have populations of 65,000 or more, thus including just 28 of New York's 62 counties, the official noted.

The Census Bureau data did allow for state-by-state comparisons. New York State's median household income of $55,246 in 2011 ranked 17th among the states and the District of Columbia, and its 16 percent poverty rate ranked 22nd.

In the metropolitan New York area, Nassau and Suffolk counties each had higher median household incomes and lower poverty rates than New York City's five boroughs, and Westchester and Rockland counties.

However, over the past five years, the data showed Long Island's poverty rate rose while median household incomes declined, clearly a reflection of the recession -- which officially ended in June 2009, said Pearl Kamer, chief economist for the Long Island Association, the region's largest business group.

Kamer said the region has seen a "high proportion of low-wage jobs generated" while unemployment remains high -- 8 percent on Long Island, almost even with the national rate of 8.1 percent.

However, there were signs of a "turnaround in financial services jobs, and business and professional service jobs," she said. "These are high-wage industries and they were very hard-hit by the recession. The fact that we're gaining jobs in these industries, although very slowly, gives room for optimism."

According to census data, Nassau's poverty rate went from an estimated 4.4 percent in 2007 to 6.8 percent in 2011. Suffolk's rose from 5 percent in 2007 to 6.4 percent in 2011.

Median household income declined in the region over the five years: from $97,438 in 2007 to $91,414 in Nassau in 2011, and from $90,298 in 2007 to $84,106 in 2011 in Suffolk.

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