Poverty and Income Inequality in New York City (Phony/Exaggerated Issue 2 of 4)


Most New Yorkers would agree that poverty and inequality are bad, and the data confirms that both are far above average in New York City.  Advocates for the poor report this constantly.  Their solution:  more money for their organizations, and more places for the poor to live.

As I wrote here, poverty and inequality may be explained by economic and social conditions and public policy at the national level.  At the local level, however, the level of poverty is primarily a product of migration:  who moves in (or is kept out), who moves out (or is pushed out), who is born and who dies off.  Local changes in the poverty rate may have nothing to do with whether individuals are getting richer or poorer whatsoever.  Even if the city succeeded in helping every poor person within its borders to advance out of poverty, its poverty rate would not go down if those formerly poor people moved out and were replaced by new poor people seeking to move up.  When people advocate for more low-income housing in New York City, they are advocating for the opportunity for more low-income people to live here, and thus a higher poverty rate.  Places with low poverty rates are generally affluent suburban jurisdictions that seek to exclude the poor, through zoning rules that keep the price of housing high (more on that in future essays).  Thus, the city’s high poverty rate is an inevitable by product of its accessibility to the poor, something that is in other ways desirable.

New 2005 Poverty Data: Everyone Gets it Wrong


The U.S. Census Bureau released 2005 economic data from its American Community Survey data yesterday, and having looked at those numbers and having analyzed similar numbers professionally for 20 years, the first-day stories in the newspapers surprised me.  As far as I am concerned, everyone got it wrong – so wrong that they must have written the stories before they came out and plopped in the numbers when they arrived.

The story as reported is that poverty is unchanged, and this shows that New York City is not a good place for the poor.  The view appears to have been pushed by poverty advocates, who are advocating for more money to be sent their way.  The reality is that poverty has declined significantly, but this isn’t necessarily good news for the poor either, because the advocates and analysts fundamentally misunderstand the factors that influence the poverty rate at the local level.  At the national level, the poverty rate is determined by changes in the economy, in society, and in public policy.  The national poverty rate was significantly higher in 2005 than in 2000, though slightly lower than in 2004.  At the local level, on the other hand, the poverty rate it is a function of who moves in (or is kept out), who moves out (or is pushed out), who is born and who dies off.  Local changes in the poverty rate may have nothing to do with whether individuals are getting richer or poorer whatsoever.

Don’t Be Wieners: A Fleeting Chance to Grow the Ferry System


With the Second Avenue Subway, the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central, and other major rail projects planned, borrowed for, financially diverted from and abandoned, in some cases several times, new politicians on the block face a dilemma.  Come up with even more money to carry out those plans, and they get the blame for the cost and disruption while the irresponsible pols that preceded them get credit for the improvement.  Fail to do so and they might get blamed for the absence of such improvements.  Thus, a few ambitious up and comers have hit upon water transportation as a new mode they can get credit for supporting, and have hit upon calls for public subsidies as a way to get their name in the news.  Unfortunately, such subsidies would divert scarce resources from the existing subway system most New Yorkers rely on, to a new luxury mode that almost exclusively serves the better off — and relatively few of them at that.  On a populist basis, such a proposal is easily and fairly attacked.  There is, however, a potential transformational investment to that very subway system, one not on anybody’s radar screen, that would permanently increase the potential of ferry service as a transport mode.  The opportunity to make that investment is about to close as a result of a development that would be built in its path.  That investment is…

Man’s Rules Bite Dogs


It’s time to admit it:  like just about everyone else in New York City, I’m a criminal, but my life of crime may be coming to an end.  My particular crime:  allowing the kids’ dog off leash in Prospect Park, during the designated hours listed on the park’s website.  How is that a crime?  It is a crime because New York City has an ordinance on the books that says at all times, and in all places, all dogs must be on a leash no less than 6 feet long when in public.  No exceptions.  No exclusions. 

When off leash hours were established, the city didn’t bother to change that ordinance.  It decided instead to not enforce the ordinance during certain hours.  It decided, in effect, to make me a guilty criminal, but to let me get away with it.  Now some folks out in Queens who don’t like off leash hours have filed a lawsuit.  It’s goal?  To force the city to enforce its own laws, and ticket those who allow their dogs to be off leash.  Who could argue with that?  I will argue against the city’s original decision to avoid changing the ordinance, and as part of general principle of law and ethics rather than as a specific canine case.  This is a long post, but if you are interested but that bothers you, you can copy it, paste it, and print it out.

Credit Where Due


Up in Albany, they are selling out our future to benefit narrow interest groups with one foot out the door.  It is government by the insiders, of the insiders, for the insiders, the rest be damned.  That is mostly what I write about on this blog (lots more to come when I get the time).

I’ve also been upset enough at some things Mayor Bloomberg has done to vote against him, after expecting to vote for him.  And if Speaker Quinn decides the say "screw you" to the people of the city by revoking term limits, we’ll she’ll have black mark in my book forever.  The federal government?  Forget it.

How 9/11 Changed the NYC Local Government Budget


I have finished compiling the census bureau’s state and local finance data for Fiscal 2004, and you can have the spreadsheet if you e-mail me at vampire-state (at) att (dot) net, putting state and local finance in the subject so I know the e-mail is not spam.  Since the Bureau also compiled data for Fiscal 2002, the last budget before 9/11, we can see how that event affected the city’s finances, and thus how that affected us all.  The answer is the city became worse off, in part because when all the dollars are counted, Albany and Washington reacted to the tragedy by directing more money away from New York City.  And the many ways in which New York City and state differ from the national average became more pronounced.

A Modest Proposal for Bloomberg


I have a modest proposal for Bloomberg.  That is Bloomberg LLC, the business media company.  I propose that it implement a huge pension enhancement for existing staff and those already retired.  Huge enough to push pension costs up to 25 percent of wages, force it to dramatically increase what it charges its customers, and cut back on some services.  Then, since its labor costs would be high, I suggest that the company drastically reduce starting salaries for all new hires, and their benefits, to the point where virtually everyone else in their industry in the New York area pays more to those they are recruiting.