Low-income New Yorkers want higher wages and affordable housing, according to new survey

A survey conducted by the Community Service Society documents the needs of low-income New Yorkers amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


Survey jannoon028/Shutterstock

Community Service Society, a not-for-profit organization that fights poverty in New York City, recently surveyed low-income New Yorkers to assess what would be needed for low-income New Yorkers to get ahead economically. 

The survey’s findings are being released in a new series, “Whose Recovery? Addressing the Needs of Low-Income New Yorkers,” and hopes to highlight the needs of low-income New Yorkers and give them a voice during an unprecedented time. 

Community Service Society has tracked the needs of low-income New Yorkers for nearly 20 years through the Unheard Third survey. It is the longest-running public opinion poll of low-income households in the United States. However, the organization’s most recent survey findings, released today, is the first in a special series documenting the needs of low-income New Yorkers following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The survey identifies low-income New Yorkers’ needs as affordable housing and higher wages as ways for them to get ahead economically, especially in the midst of the COVID-19. COVID-19 was also identified as a leading factor in the recent exacerbated economic situations of marginalized communities.  

“Overall, we have found that COVID-19 has exacerbated already existing racial, gender and other socioeconomic disparities in access to good jobs, housing and affordable childcare. Low-income New Yorkers (defined as those with income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $52,492 for a family with 2 adults and 2 children) were much more likely than higher income New Yorkers to have experienced pandemic-related job and income loss,” Irene Lew, Emerita Torres and Debipriya Chatterjee, researchers who conducted the Community Service Society’s recent survey with Lake Research Partners, told NYN Media in an email. “Furthermore, with unprecedented rates of pandemic-induced joblessness, housing insecurity also became more widespread among low-income New Yorkers, especially New Yorkers of color. So, it’s not surprising that we’re seeing housing and higher wages emerge as the top two measures among low-income New Yorkers in our survey since those two issues were – and continue to be – intertwined crises during the pandemic.”

Affordable housing was ranked a high priority for low-income Black New Yorkers, while higher wages ranked the top priority for low-income Latinx and Asian residents. According to CSS,  past research shows that show Black renters in New York face the greatest risk for eviction while Latino and Asian New Yorkers make up a disproportionate part of the workforce in low-wage industries, such as the restaurant and hospitality industries.

The survey also indicated that working mothers were twice as likely to rank childcare affordability as a top measure for getting ahead. “This (survey) highlights the challenges that low-income working mothers face with remaining in the workforce, as they struggle to balance both work and caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic.” the CSS researchers said.
In the midst of a new mayoral administration, who will be inheriting a $5 billion budget deficit, CSS hopes that the needs of low-income New Yorkers will take priority. “CSS seeks to ensure that the priorities of our city government are inclusive and reflect the needs of all New Yorkers, notably those who have historically been left out,” the organization said.