Syracuse poverty rate remains among highest in the nation

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United States Census Bureau research data has ranked Syracuse 29th poorest city in the nation.

Syracuse is the 29th poorest city in the United States, according to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The report, published on, revealed that in the year 2015, 31 percent of Syracuse residents lived below the federal poverty line and one in two children in Syracuse lived in poverty. It also showed that 45.3 percent of children under the age of 18 lived in poverty last year, and among children under the age of 5, the rate was 52.4 percent.

The federal government defines children and adults as poor if they live in households with an income below $24,257 for a family of four. While the U.S. has recorded its largest decline in poverty since 1968, Syracuse’s poverty rate has remained essentially unchanged since 2009, according to

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Andy Mendes | Design Editor

Minchin Lewis, an adjunct professor of public administration and international affairs at Syracuse University, said the issue is an economic one that goes beyond city boundaries. He added that prior political and economic policies created the issues the city of Syracuse is facing today.

“If we think of it as the city’s responsibility, I think we can create policies that aren’t really relevant,” Lewis said. “We need to be careful about defining a problem where the definition is relevant.”

If you think about the issue as a county issue, Lewis said the poverty percentage went down too as the poverty percentage was much lower on a county basis.

“The problem is that we don’t have jobs that are sufficient to employ all the people in the county,” Lewis said. “Twenty thousand jobs were lost in the last 15 years. This is an issue of jobs.”

The reason why poverty remains so high for Syracuse is because families with higher income have moved to the suburbs, leaving low-income families behind the city, Lewis said.

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Andy Mendes | Design Editor

Those who have been directly hit by high poverty are people in minority groups. This study from the Century Foundation found last year that Syracuse has the highest concentration of black and Hispanic people in poverty of any of the top 100 metropolitan areas in the country.

Specifically, two-thirds of the black residents in Syracuse and about 60 percent of the Hispanic residents live in high-poverty neighborhoods, according to the study.

To tackle the issue, Onondaga County should be implementing human service and social programs to address it, Lewis said. The county was already doing that in many ways, he said, but added that it was not an issue that the city could be involved in as the city solves physical service projects like road maintenance and not human service projects.

Economic development is critical for the city, Lewis said.

There are many examples of how economic development and jobs help fix this issue, Lewis said. Industries such as Lockheed Martin — a global security and aerospace company that has an office in Syracuse — bring in contracts that create jobs. Syracuse’s mall Destiny USA brings in resources from outside the region and tourism revenue, Lewis said.


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