Analyst Weighs in on Rochester's Rising Extreme Poverty Rate

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- New U.S. Census data shows Rochester’s extreme poverty rate rose by .6 percent between 2014 and 2015. It went from 16.4 percent to 17 percent.

On the other side, however, the city saw a slight decrease in overall poverty from 33.8 percent to 33.5 percent. Rochester’s child poverty rate also decreased from 52.5 percent to 51.6 percent.

A family of four in poverty makes less than $24,000 and a single person makes less than $12,000. Extreme poverty means the family or person is making half that.

Center for Governmental Research Associate Principal Peter Nabozny said it is impossible to tell if those in poverty have slipped into extreme poverty because they do not sample the same families every year.

“The challenge that Rochester and cities like Rochester have is that we got this situation where we have a lot of people experiencing poverty and they’re living in communities that have high rates of poverty which makes it harder for them to escape poverty and to achieve certain levels of economic mobility and for kids to be able to succeed as adults,” Nabozny said.

He said poverty is closely linked to those who do not have a high school degree, so it is important to help them get their diplomas or GEDs to better access the job market.

“We need to focus on those things as long term ways to address the issue of poverty, while we’re focusing on short term programs to help people access jobs and services and things like that to make them more sufficient and economically mobile,” Nabozny said.

He says there are a number of programs that have proven successful to help people climb out of poverty in Rochester. Examples include helping expectant mothers with their finances and job training programs.

However, he also believes the city should be experimenting in other ways. One suggestion he has in an unconditional cash assistance program.

“There’s research out there that shows if you give people some amount of money, not a ton of money, that provides more security for that family to be able to make decisions, to be [able to plan things out] and it’s been shown to improve family relationships between parents and children, between spouses.”

Overall, when looking at the numbers, Nabozny said it is important to note, just because someone is over the poverty line, it does not mean they are doing well.

“A lot of people in this community are having a hard time making ends meet and I think we need to consider lots of different policies and programs and things like that to support people differently and hopefully with better outcomes,” Nabozny said.

Suburban Monroe County is seeing a dramatic increase in poverty rates.

Nabozny said it has doubled from about 4 percent in 2000 to 8 percent today.

He said there is currently a change in population trends, where more people from the city are moving to the suburbs.

He added it is harder for those in the suburbs to access services because they may not have a car, live near a bus line or be within walking distance of that service.

He said it is important to focus making those services more accessible to them.

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