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Thread: Basic Costs Beyond Reach of Many

  1. #1

    Default Basic Costs Beyond Reach of Many

    December 30, 2004

    Basic Costs Beyond Reach of Many in City, Report Says


    Nearly half of New York City households do not earn enough to pay for their basic living costs, according to a report produced by a New York nonprofit that works to make poor women financially independent.

    In fact, the report estimates that the income needed to afford basic living costs in the city is more than three times the national poverty level. Researchers used government standards on housing, food, child care and medical insurance to calculate the basic costs.

    The report says that a parent with two children in the Bronx needed to earn $49,874, or nearly $24 an hour of full-time work, to get by without government or private aid in 2004. The same family in Brooklyn needed $51,567, and in Queens $54,961. And if they lived in the lower half of Manhattan, $77,957 was needed to cover the same family's minimum costs, more than any other city measured, including San Francisco.

    The report, to be released in January, was produced by the Women's Center for Education and Career Advancement, which specializes in helping women move from welfare to financial independence. It is aimed at highlighting the significant gap between welfare benefits and the minimum wage and demonstrating how much money it takes to pay basic bills in the city. An advance copy of the report was given yesterday to The New York Times.

    It is also part of a national project, created by Wider Opportunities for Women, another nonprofit group, to establish a counterweight to the federal income threshold for poverty, which is increasingly viewed by advocates for the poor as divorced from reality. For example, the poverty level for a household with one adult and two children is now set at $14,824. Government benefits like food stamps, welfare and rent subsidies are usually available only to families who earn less than twice the poverty level.

    "There is a tacit acknowledgment by the government that earning at the federal poverty line is not adequate," said Merble Reagon, executive director of the women's center. "This standard is to help policy makers set minimum wage, access to training and education, and eligibility for work supports in such a way to make it really possible for families to stay in the work force and reach independence."

    Although few New Yorkers would be shocked to learn that families must live frugally on an income near the city's median of $56,500, they might be surprised to learn that a typical mother with two small children needs to spend more on child care than rent. Of the $49,874 that the report estimates it takes a single parent to cover basic costs in the Bronx, 34 percent would be spent on child care and 22 percent on a two-bedroom apartment, the report said.

    Taxes would be the next largest cost, consuming 15 percent of the family's monthly income, followed by food, which would take up 14 percent. Assuming health insurance is covered by an employer, health costs for co-payments and medicines would be 6 percent, and transportation, assuming there is no car, would be 2 percent. Other household expenditures accounted for the last 8 percent of the finances.

    The authors of the report describe the expenses they list as basic and far from luxurious, but also not the barest minimum. There is no money in the budget for school supplies, retirement savings or restaurant food, but the report assumes that parents do not sleep in the same room with a child or have more than two children sleeping together. A family of a mother and three children would, therefore, require a three-bedroom apartment - not realistic in the rental market in New York City.

    Mark Levitan, a senior policy analyst with the Community Service Society who acted as an adviser to the report's authors, acknowledged that the choice of some of the criteria for what was basic was "subjective." He also said that while nearly half the families in New York are not earning up to the report's self-sufficiency standard, many of those families are receiving some government or private aid, like a housing or child-care subsidy or food-pantry assistance, to help fill the gap.

    The report's minimum recommended income level has risen substantially throughout the city since the last time it was issued, in 2000, primarily because of soaring housing costs.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  2. #2

    Default Dental prevention affordable?

    Being a foreign oral hygienist I would like to know if anyone can tell me if
    dental hygiene is in the basic healtinsurance or that it is only for the happy few? I'm not talking about bleaching teeth but removing calculus and fighting inflamation, prevention and so on...

    Greetings Wittykitty

  3. #3

    Default The cost of living factor

    Quote Originally Posted by Evgeny
    Is living in NYC really pressing on you financially? I heard that you gotta work extremely hard to afford living there. The real estate prices are sure monstrously high but what about food, clothes, bills and other stuff? Could an average person (having an average salary) afford living in NYC?

  4. #4


    What do you consider to be an average salary?

  5. #5
    Architectural Padawan
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Turtle Bay

    Default Re: Dental prevention affordable?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wittykitty
    Being a foreign oral hygienist I would like to know if anyone can tell me if
    dental hygiene is in the basic healtinsurance or that it is only for the happy few? I'm not talking about bleaching teeth but removing calculus and fighting inflamation, prevention and so on...

    Greetings Wittykitty
    Every insurance plan that I've had has covered at least 2 visits to the dentist yearly for a cleaning.

  6. #6

  7. #7


    February 8, 2005

    New Yorkers Are Spending More as Cost of Necessities Rises


    red-hot real estate market, high-priced orange juice and a ceaseless array of fare increases have combined to make it harder for New Yorkers to make ends meet than at any time in a decade, according to new federal statistics.

    Facing prices on necessities that are growing faster than almost anywhere else, many New Yorkers have stopped buying books, hand creams and other discretionary treats, and have sharply decreased their charitable giving in the last few years. A New York family gave nearly 30 percent less to charity on average in 2003 than in 2000, the statistics show.

    Between 2000 and 2003, according to figures released on Monday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, spending among New Yorkers rose 4.3 percent, while price inflation went up by 5.5 percent. That is the opposite pattern from most of the rest of the country, where spending went up faster than inflation.

    Economists say that when inflation goes up faster than spending, it indicates that consumers find it difficult to keep up with rising prices.

    "Expenditures went up less than inflation because New Yorkers allocated a large percentage of those expenditures on necessities," said Michael L. Dolfman, regional commissioner in the bureau. "Basically, New York is getting too expensive."

    It is the first time that imbalance has occurred in the region in about a decade, reflecting both the national recession that hit New York harder than the rest of the nation, and New York's endless ability to outprice other cities for basic necessities.

    Among the cities the department looked at, Los Angeles had the biggest increase in inflation - 5.8 percent - but spending in that city rose 10 percent, reflecting the classic economic theory that spending usually drives inflation. "What makes New York interesting is that it didn't happen that way there," Mr. Dolfman said.

    In nearly every category, people in the New York region spent more of their household dollar on essentials than other Americans between 2000 and 2003. Rental prices in the region rose 8.1 percent, while nationally, they went up 4.1 percent.

    Food prices rose 9.3 percent in the New York region; nationally they increased 2.7 percent.

    What residents gave up were the extras. Spending on clothing fell by 12 percent, and there were also cutbacks in buying meat, poultry, eggs, and tobacco. In 2000, New Yorkers gave $1,353 per family to charity, but by 2003 that amount had fallen to $949.

    Some economists were less than impressed with the new data, stressing that it was hard to draw broad conclusions about the rising costs of life in New York based on a few years of data during difficult times. Jason Bram, a regional economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, noted that spending in the region may have declined in 2002 and 2003 because of the terror attacks and the ensuing economic slowdown.

    But the slowdown did not prevent prices from escalating. In 2004, the inflation rate rose 3.3 percent nationally over the prior year, while in the New York region, it went up 3.8 percent.

    And since December 2003, the price for food in grocery stores in the New York metropolitan region rose 5.5 percent compared with 2.5 percent nationally. Total food costs, which includes restaurant meals, rose only 2.7 percent nationally but went up 4.4 percent in New York.

    "If prices continue to go up faster than what we are seeing now," Mr. Dolfman said, "then what we are seeing is not unique happenstance but could be the beginning of a new trend."

    New Yorkers who have shopped elsewhere already know they pay more than the rest of the country for many basic goods, even in national chains that clearly benefit from economies of scale when they buy their goods.

    At the Target store in Brooklyn, for instance, a 200-ounce container of Tide laundry detergent was $14.89, which was 27 percent higher than the same bottle at a Target Store in Houston, and 16 percent higher than in Target stores in Chicago.

    "Select items at an individual Target store can be impacted by prices on identical items at other nearby retailers," said Paula Thornton-Greear, a spokeswoman for Target, in an e-mail message. "Therefore, it is commonplace that prices on selected items may vary from Target store to Target store within one metro area and that prices on selected items may vary in different states."

    She said Target's pricing strategy is based solely on being competitive in a specific market area, rather than demographics.

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  8. #8


    February 24, 2005

    Top of the Heap? New York Leads the Nation in Inflation


    s further evidence of the growing cost of a life lived in New York City, the Consumer Price Index for the New York region inched up 0.6 percent last month, triple the rate of inflation nationwide.

    The index has risen 4.1 percent in New York since the beginning of 2004, compared with a 3 percent increase nationwide, according to the federal government, and far surpassing the increase in other cities, like Chicago, where the index rose 2.4 percent between January 2004 and 2005, and Los Angeles, where it rose 3.7 percent.

    It was the second year in a row that the rise in the price index for the region was far greater than the average national increase, after four years of being lower or about the same. "We are seeing that the cost of living has increased more in New York in the last year than in other parts of the country," said Michael L. Dolfman, regional commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which oversees the index, a measure of consumer spending for a variety of goods and services.

    Rising prices were led last month by housing and recreation, while the cost of food, especially produce, dropped a bit. Gasoline prices also fell 4.5 percent last month. "The entire index is now going up and other variables are going up," Mr. Dolfman said. "Here we have the largest increase in the index in the country, and it is not due to gasoline."

    Prices for necessities have been growing faster in the New York region than almost anywhere else, and in response, many New Yorkers have been reining in their spending on discretionary items like books, personal care products and even gifts to charity.

    From 2000 to 2003, according to the bureau, spending among New Yorkers rose 4.3 percent as inflation went up by 5.5 percent. That is the opposite of what happened in most of the rest of the country, where spending rose faster than inflation.

    The combination of the rising costs of things like housing is almost certain to become an issue in this year's mayoral race, and some Democratic challengers to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg are already raising the specter of the high cost of living in the city. Steve Sigmund, a spokesman for the Gifford Miller, the City Council speaker and a mayoral candidate, said, "The cost-of-living issue is important and stands as a proxy for other issues, including the mayor's priorities."

    Housing is a "key component" in the inflation story, Mr. Dolfman noted. From December to January, the cost of shelter in New York rose 1.4 percent; from January 2004 to January 2005, that cost increased 4.7 percent. Household furnishings, led by appliances, were also more expensive, with prices rising 0.6 percent, and recreation costs rose 1.6 percent, in large part because of cable and satellite television. Medical care also rose 0.6 percent, pushed by prescription drug prices.

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  9. #9
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003



    Is it just me, or does anyone else find it weird that people are complaining about the cost of living in NYC?

    For some families, that is a problem. They do not have teh means to move out, nor the motivation.

    But for the rest of us, what is up? The demand is huge, the prices high. If you (or I) cannot afford to live in the city, we should not feel like we are somehow entitled to do so.

    the hardest part about this whole thing is not even with city living, but the fact that the people that have been driven out of manhattan have filtered out into NJ, NYS, CT and the outlying boroughs in search of a place close enough to commute from, but cheap enough to afford. This is making even areas like Jersey City shoot up in price out of the reach of many that need it.

    I guess the hardest thing comes from the fact that no matter how much some people want to live here, or close to here, we still need our labor base. What would happen if 99% of NY and its surroundings was yuppified? I think it would get a lot more expensive for all of us if they could not find anyone to wait tables or clean dishes.....

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