'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Misery Index 

From the Food Bank for New York City:

The NYC Hunger Experience Report Series tracks annual trends in difficulty affording food among New York City residents. The Food Bank For New York City contracts with Marist College Institute for Public Opinion to conduct telephone interviews with a random and representative sample of city residents. Socio-demographic findings identify which populations throughout the five boroughs are having the greatest difficulty affording food throughout the year in order to inform policy solutions and address the problem of food poverty. This research includes six years of trend analysis from 2003 (the earliest year the poll was conducted) through 2008. Data for 2007 were collected in February 2008 and released in NYC Hunger Experience 2008.

This report, NYC Hunger Experience 2008 Update: Food Poverty Soars as Recession Hits Home, (reflecting 2008 data collected in November) was expedited in order to gain information on how the current recession is impacting New Yorker City residents.

Recent data have confirmed what New Yorkers have been experiencing for some time – the U.S. officially entered into a recession in December of 2007. Since then, 1.9 million jobs have been lost and the pace has only been accelerating over the past few months (average monthly job losses were more than 400,000 from September through November as compared to approximately 80,000 earlier in the year) pushing the unemployment rate up from 6.5 percent in October to 6.7 percent in November, the highest since 1993 and up two percentage points from a year ago. Job losses in November reached 533,000 (the largest monthly loss since the 1970s) and there are now 10.3 million people unemployed in the U.S. (up by more than 3 million since last year). In addition, under-employment levels (people who work part-time yet want a full-time position) rose to 12.5 percent in November (the highest on record since tracking began in 1994) an increase of 621,000 people since October and up by 2.8 million from last year. In total, there are 19.6 million people in the U.S. who are unemployed or under-employed — approximately one out of every eight people in the labor market. Economists expect unemployment to continue to rise and predict that it will increase to 9 percent or more in 2009.

Difficulty Affording Food: In the midst of job losses, rising costs and the credit crunch resulting from the economic crisis, the number of New Yorkers having difficulty affording food has spiked to approximately 4 million in 2008, almost doubled from approximately 2 million in 2003 (the earliest data available) and up from 3.1 million in 2007, a 26 percent increase. While hardship is not a new experience for millions of New Yorkers, as we have seen a steady increase in difficulty affording food since 2003, the rise within the last eight months (from February to November 2008) represents the highest increase in the history of the poll. It should be noted that as the November 2008 poll reflects difficulty affording food over the past year, the data capture findings since the start of the recession. Therefore, the dramatic rise in difficulty is likely an indicator of how New Yorkers feel about their financial situation in the midst of the crisis and rising costs (from 2003 to 2007, the cost of groceries in the New York metro area has increased by 15 percent and increased an additional 7 percent from January to October 2008).

Loss of Household Income: In addition, as residents’ financial situations deteriorate, more and more New Yorkers are using up their savings. Almost one out of four or 1.9 million New York City residents would not be able to afford food for themselves and their families immediately after losing their household income (up from 1.3 million in 2003 and from 1.6 million in 2007)and 3.7 million would not be able to afford food within three months of losing their household income (up from 3.3 million in 2003).

Concern About Needing Food Assistance: In this current climate of skyrocketing unemployment, a staggering 3.5 million people are concerned about the possibility of needing food assistance within the next year. More than 2 million of those concerned have never accessed assistance before and would be turning to a soup kitchen, food pantry or the Food Stamp Program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) for the first time. Already, 1.3million New York City residents rely on emergency food organizations, up 24 percent from 1 million in 2004. Soup kitchens and food pantries throughout the five boroughs are also facing rising costs and anecdotal reports show they lack food at a time when demand is increasing. Findings show that low and middle-income New Yorkers, households with children and seniors are among the most vulnerable. The percent of residents with difficulty affording food include:

73 percent of New Yorkers with household incomes of less than $25,000 per year, a 49 percent increase from 49 percent in 2003.

59 percent of New Yorkers with household incomes of $25,000 to $49,999 per year, almost tripled from 21 percent in 2003.

56 percent of New York City households with children, an increase of 75 percent from 32 percent in 2003.

47 percent of seniors ages 65 and older, more than doubled from 23 percent in 2003.

The poll findings are consistent with research by Columbia University showing that throughout the U.S, residents need at least 200 percent of the poverty level (approximately $34,000 for a family of three) to afford necessities and that in New York City, residents need an income of at least 250 percent of the federal poverty level (approximately $43,000 annually for a family of three) to meet basic needs.5 Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show that 3.1 million New York City residents (38 percent) live below 200 percent of poverty and 4.4 million (53 percent) live below 300 percent of poverty (approximately $51,000 for a family of three). The findings are also consistent with recent data showing that 56 percent of voters in New York City report that they are worse off financially than they were a year ago and 49 percent describe their finances as not good or poor, as released by Quinnipiac University in November 2008.

Meanwhile, in a more affluent part of town, things are a little different over at American International Group. Executives are, it seems, continuing to eat quite well.

Labels: , , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?