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New City Council Study Shows NYC’s Middle Class Shrinking Fast

Manhattan and Brooklyn are ranked first and second with the most expensive housing costs in America; Queens is ranked seventh.

The New York City Council released a study today entitled, “The Middle Class Squeeze," a report that details how New York City’s middle class is shrinking as a percentage of the city’s working-age population.

The study – which uses the Area Median Income (AMI) standard developed by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to define the middle class – outlines the striking economic challenges for New York City’s middle-class families.

Most remarkably, the study found New York City is one of the most expensive places to live in the country: Manhattan and Brooklyn ranked first and second with the most expensive housing costs out of 300 U.S. metropolitan areas. Queens ranked seventh.

In sheer numbers, the city’s middle class has seen growth between 1989 and 2012, gaining 129,000 middle class adults.

However, the number of middle-class residents as a percentage of the total population has gotten smaller, as well as the overall median income of middle-class residents (see chart).

In addition, the number of poor residents in the City has grown significantly, causing what researchers are terming the “hollow in the middle” effect, where the middle gives way to a heavier top and bottom.

The City’s share of residents who are college-educated or better is higher than the nation as a whole.

But the percentage of the population without a high school diploma fell, as well as those associated with the middle-educated section of the City’s population –  those with some college population or an associate degree , reflecting the same  “hollow in the middle” income polarization.

Also, between 1989 and 2012 the City’s middle class also has grown more diverse, a trend that largely reflects the growing Hispanic and Asian populations in the city. However, although the chance that an African-American, Hispanic or Asian was in the middle class remained relatively stable throughout the period, the representation of African-American and Hispanic middle-class households has fallen.

The report also found:

  • Jobs paying middle class wages are increasingly scarce.
  • Since 2001, median rents for middle class households rose by 6.2%, the price of a condominium apartment increased by 47%.        
  • New York City’s middle class unemployment rate is 6.2%, three times higher than it was in 2008 and 75% higher than in 1989.
  • In 1989, more than half of the city’s working age high school graduates were in the middle class. Today only a third are in the middle class.

“Clearly the middle class wants to be here, but it’s getting harder to stay,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “This report demonstrates the need to address long-term housing costs, develop opportunities for middle class workers and help create a New York City that middle class families continue to seek out as a place to call home.”

To read the report online, please visit www.council.nyc.gov.

Harriet Brown February 11, 2013 at 06:05 PM
There is talk that our dear mayor wants to allow developers to build luxury housing in the middle of public housing projects. So, that would take away the parking lots and play grounds. Is he going to be allowed to do this?
Gib Veconi February 13, 2013 at 04:21 AM
How was the "median middle class income" in the chart derived? I thought the current HUD AMI for New York City was about $80K.

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