An aerial image of a northeast view of a community...

An aerial image of a northeast view of a community of homes in Merrick. U.S. Census data released Thursday says Long Island's poverty rate is far lower the national rate. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Long Island had a poverty rate in the single digits last year, far lower than the national poverty rate, as well as a median household income far higher than the national median, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Thursday.

Yet the region faces challenges in the real estate market, and a large pocket of the population is in great financial need, some local experts say. The new data for 2022 also shows the poverty rate among families headed by single mothers on Long Island continues to be higher than the rest of the population. 

"The economy remains strong. Inflation is coming under control," said John Rizzo, an economist and professor at Stony Brook University. "l think a big challenge on Long Island is the real estate market. … Affordable housing remains a particular problem because inventory in housing is low, prices are high, mortgage interest rates are high, there's a shortage of affordable apartment space. This has long-term implications that aren’t good," he said.

It could lead, he said, to "young people leaving Long Island, that has implications for  the workforce long-term and on the economy."


  • Long Island's poverty rate is far lower than the national poverty rate, and its median household income is far higher than the national median, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Thursday.
  • But experts say the data doesn't reflect the economic challenges in a high-cost region like Long Island.
  • A large pocket of the population is still in great financial need, some local experts say, and finding affordable housing remains a huge challenge for many.

Rizzo hasn't reviewed the latest census data, but said that, in general, the federal poverty threshold — which for 2022 was $29,678 for two adults and two children — was "not a fair comparison" in assessing the needs of the population in a high-cost region like Long Island.

29.4% of Long Island households are 'struggling' to afford basic needs

The 2023 ALICE report by United Way of Long Island determined that 29.4% of households here — 118,911 in Nassau County and 166,268 in Suffolk County — "are struggling to afford these basic needs," such as housing, food, child care, and transportation.

ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. According to the report, the annual "household survival budget" for a family of two adults and two school-age children in Nassau was $76,932 and $79,668 in Suffolk.

The agency's president and chief executive, Theresa Regnante, wrote in an essay provided to Newsday: "There are two starkly different economic realities in America. One in which middle- and high-wage workers saw savings and wealth increase throughout the pandemic. And another for those working in low-income jobs, whose wages stagnated over 15 years. These essential workers were locked out of the economic booms and are still reeling from another battering sustained during the pandemic."

She added: "The outdated and incomplete measurements our country uses to document financial hardship have distorted how we understand the challenges facing these hardworking neighbors as they strive for financial stability. The poverty level vastly underestimates how many households are experiencing hardship."

Long Island’s overall poverty rate in 2022 was 5.9% compared to New York’s overall poverty rate at 14.3% 

Source: U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey 2022 1-year estimates

According to the 2022 American Community Survey 1-year estimates, Long Island's overall poverty rate was 5.9% in 2022, virtually unchanged from the 2021 rate of 6%. For Nassau, the poverty rate was 5.3% in 2022, not statistically different from its 5.8% rate the year before. Suffolk's poverty rate in 2022 was 6.5%, not a statistically different change from 2021's rate of 6.1%, according to the census bureau's estimates.

But the poverty rate among families headed by single women with children on Long Island was far higher: 18.1% in Nassau and 17.2% in Suffolk in 2022, not a statistically significant difference from the rates of a year earlier, the bureau determined.

New York State's overall poverty rate was 14.3%, ranking 10th highest among states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.

The median household income in Nassau in 2022 was estimated at $136,984, and in Suffolk, $119,838. The amounts were not statistically different from estimates of a year before. And 95.5% of Long Islanders had health insurance in 2022, about the same as the year before.

The bureau released the national official poverty rate Tuesday, which was 11.5% in 2022, virtually unchanged from the year before. But the bureau also released the Supplemental Poverty Measure that, for the first time since 2010, showed an increase in the poverty rate overall and even more sharply for children, which it attributed to the end of pandemic-era federal benefits.

The supplemental poverty rate for the nation was 12.4% in 2022, up from 7.8% in 2021. The child poverty rate, under the supplemental measure, which uses more comprehensive calculations, rose to 12.4% in 2022, from 5.2% the year before.

The American Community Survey, upon which the local county estimates are based, uses a different methodology for its poverty statistics than the national official and supplemental poverty measures, a bureau spokeswoman said.

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