At 55%, The Bronx Has Highest Rate of Residents Who Can’t Afford the Basics

Here’s another report about The Bronx that probably (and sadly) won’t shock you.

According to Overlooked & Undercounted 2018: The Self-Sufficiency Standard for New York City, a report by City Harvest, our borough has the highest rate of residents below the standard of self-sufficiency. 

Citywide the rate is 40% but in our borough it’s much higher.

What that means is that at 55%, over half of residents in a borough of almost 1.5 million (over 800,000 if you don’t want to do the math) cannot afford the basic necessities in life such as child care, health care, food, and housing.

In The Bronx, an adult with two school age children needs $5,262 a month to cover the basic costs of living which breaks down to: housing at $1,562, child care at $1,354, food at $659, healthcare at $513, transportation at $121, misc at $421, and taxes at $632.

In some community districts in The Bronx that figure is as high as 69%.

Only Riverdale, Kingsbridge and Fieldston in the Northwest Bronx and Throggs Neck, Country Club, Co-op City, Schuylerville, and Pelham Bay in the East Bronx were below the 40% citywide average.

Breakdown by Bronx Community Districts are as follows:

  • CB 1&2 – 67% 
  • CB 3&6 – 69% 
  • CB 4 – 68% 
  • CB 5 – 55% 
  • CB 7 – 65% 
  • CB 8 – 36% 
  • CB 9 – 52% 
  • CB 10 – 30% 
  • CB 11 – 42% 
  • CB 12 – 46% 

This is despite the fact that the The Bronx has the lowest cost of living index in New York City at $51,180 which in the end doesn’t matter that it’s the lowest since the median household income in our borough is only $36,593 with individual per capita income at only $19,721 as per the most recent Census survey dated July 1, 2017.

Due to all these poor economic indicators, over 50% of Bronx neighborhoods are experiencing high or extreme poverty.

Let that sink in. In what’s supposed to the be the greatest city in the country in the greatest country on earth, you have residents experiencing high AND extreme poverty as luxury condos and rentals rise around these very neighborhoods. 

“I’ve been living in the Bronx with my husband and daughter for about 8 years now, and everything is getting more expensive. They just raised my rent double. So, it’s hard,” Emily said.

Food pantry lines such as this one in Fordham is all too common throughout our borough and on a daily basis.

What’s surprising about this study is that even though these residents can’t afford the basics, two-thirds are not considered to be poor according to federal guidelines. 

This results in many of them not being able to qualify for basic support services.

Metro US reports:

“I live paycheck-to-paycheck. I don’t get any benefits, I don’t get food stamps, and I’m not on welfare. I just work and I don’t know how I’m making everything meet,” Emily, a Bronx resident, told City Harvest.

According to the report, families’ efforts are exacerbated by the reality that housing, health care, and other costs are rising faster than wages in the city.

“I’ve been living in the Bronx with my husband and daughter for about 8 years now, and everything is getting more expensive. They just raised my rent double. So, it’s hard,” Emily said.

For a Bronx family of three, one adult with two kids needs a minimum annual income around $76,000 which is almost four times the official poverty measures (20,780) and double what a minimum wage job pays.

“It’s very tough to know that families are being forced to choose between paying for health care, a place to live or food,” DeVaughn said.

Nearly Half of NYC Residents Can’t Afford the Basics: Report
At 9:30AM a line is already forming around a block in Mott Haven at a local food pantry.

Some key findings in the report include:

  • Overall rates of income inadequacy are double for people of color vs Whites which is at 24%
  • More than half of Latino households have inadequate income at 56%
  • Asian/Pacific Islanders are at 44%
  • Blacks/African American at 47%
  • Single women of color have an even more dismal out look as 83% of Latina single mothers lack adequate income (the rate is 74% for single Black mothers and 64% for single Asian mothers).

And all of this is happening as rents are rapidly rising particularly in the South and West Bronx in areas that are considered to be gentrifying.

The Bronx is already the most rent-burdened borough where people are paying more of what little income they have towards rent when compared to other parts of NYC.

Even in the miserable heat people will line up at pantries for food in The Bronx because they just don’t have enough income to make ends meet getting the basics.

We’re also home to some of the most at-risk communities for homelessness where residents are a paycheck or two away from losing their homes.

We sincerely ask how is gentrification going to solve this as supporters of development claim it will help folks?

If you get displaced, you get erased. Nothing left to help uplift you out of poverty. 

You can read the full report here.

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.