It Wasn’t a Good Decade to Be Young or in New York, Says the Census

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According to new Census Bureau data, poverty rates rose more sharply in New York City than in the rest of the country in recent years. Seventy-five-thousand additional New Yorkers fell into poverty between 2009 and 2010. It's a somewhat surprising stat — after all, New York wasn't quite as hard hit by the recession as other parts of the country, on balance. But perhaps that set of stats on the economic impact don't tell the whole story. As the Times points out, Manhattan has the greatest income disparity nationally. (A recent feature in New York explored the wealth gap in the metro area.)The top fifth of the borough makes 38 times as much as the bottom fifth, which pulls in less than $10,000 on average annually. The aggregate stats for the city are discouraging, too. Median income fell, in real terms, to 1980 levels — $48,743, or a 5 percent dip since 2007.

Drill down deeper into that data, and get even more bummed out:


More New Yorkers depended on some form of public assistance than in 2009, and a record 1.8 million residents — nearly one in five households — are now relying on food stamps. Fewer people had health insurance, home ownership declined and housing values plunged; 44 percent of renters were diverting at least 35 percent of their income for housing.

Unemployment rose one percentage point, and more people gave up on finding work, which may be one reason college and graduate school enrollment soared by about 50,000. More living quarters were crowded — from 7.9 percent of all houses and apartments in 2009 to 9.1 percent last year.

Data was discouraging for the country as a whole, too — especially for what the AP has decided to dub the "Lost Generation." The rate of poverty among young adults is just about the same as that of New York City, one in five. And it's a cohort that has the worst rate of unemployment since the Second World War. Just 55.3 percent of people ages 16 to 29 are employed, compared with 67.3 percent in 2000.

We (sorry, this feels personal!) are more likely to delay major life decisions as a result, it seems. The median age of marriage has crept up by about a year since 2006. The marriage rate was at a record low in the population at large, as well as with young adults specifically. And even though the number of women between 20 and 34 increased by about a million between 2008 and 2010, the number of children born to women in that age range dropped by 200,000. Instead of getting married and moving out, people are living at home. Mobility among college graduates is also at a post-WWII nadir, and a whopping 25 percent more young people live at home than at the outset of the recession.

"Many young adults are essentially postponing adulthood and all of the family responsibilities and extra costs that go along with it," Mark Mather, analyst at the Population Reference Bureau, told the AP. Sure, without young people delaying those traditional markers of adulthood, we wouldn't have network sitcoms or trend pieces or Williamsburg (not to mention trend pieces involving network sitcoms set in Williamsburg). But twenty- and thirtysomethings are supposed to get to cling to immaturity by choice! It's depressing, and even more so when you consider it's only one early set of data connecting the economic impact of the downturn with the cultural impact — we're not done getting these numbers, and not all of the impact is going to be quantifiable.

Related: The Wealth Gap Is .75 Miles Wide

Census: Recession taking toll on young adults [AP]
One in Five New York City Residents Living in Poverty [NYT]
Recession changes the American way of life [USA Today]