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Poverty isn’t Permanent

We’re excited to announce the latest installment of the Robin Hood Poverty Tracker. About two years ago, we worked with teams at Robin Hood and the Columbia Population Research Center to create a visualization that outlined the complexities of poverty and hardship in New York City. Now, two years later, we’re able to show how the population of New Yorkers experiencing financial disadvantage has changed over time. While many think of poverty as a persistent state of being, the latest visualization shows how New Yorkers of every age, race, gender, and education level move in and out of financial hardship.

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The premise of the Poverty Tracker rests on the notion that official poverty measures are wrong. Considering the rising cost of living in different geographic areas, and the wide range of income sources families receive–the rather outdated federal poverty measure doesn’t fully capture the magnitude of disadvantage, particularly for those in New York City. As a result, Robin Hood has elevated the conversation about material hardship. The term can include anything from being evicted, forgoing medical care, having utilities cut off, or running out of food–all due to lack of funds. For the 9% of adult New Yorkers who remained in poverty from 2012 to 2013, 23% stayed in hardship. Material hardship, as it turns out, has a lot of staying power.

The latest addition of the Poverty Tracker reminds us that people move in and out of financial disadvantage. While owning assets like a home, a car, or savings help cushion New Yorkers from financial struggles, we were surprised to find that those with large sums of debt are actually less likely to experience poverty. If you take a step back to think about it, it makes sense: you need a high income to qualify for large loans. At the same time, debtors who owe large sums of money are more likely to experience material hardship.

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Poverty in New York isn’t permanent, but it’s certainly still a problem. To learn more about the persistence of poverty and hardship for different populations, explore the data on the site.

Founded in 2010 by Ben Fry, Fathom Information Design works with clients to understand complex data through interactive tools and software for mobile devices, the web, and large format installations. Out of its studio in Boston, Fathom partners with Fortune 500s and non-profit organizations across sectors, including health care, education, financial services, media, technology, and consumer products.

How can we help? hello@fathom.info.