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The poverty numbers

A recent report from Rochester Area Community Foundation and ACT Rochester underscored once more the daunting scope and depth of Rochester’s poverty problem. Like two previous reports, this one provides a range of data on the levels and concentration of poverty in the city and nine-county metropolitan area.

Poverty in this region has continued to grow. The most current rate is 14.3 percent, versus 13.2 percent three years ago. In the city of Rochester, the poverty rate has climbed to 33.8 percent, up from 31.1 percent. Among the 75 largest U.S. cities, Rochester continues to rank fifth-poorest.

Compared with cities its size, Rochester has the second-highest overall poverty rate, and the highest levels of child poverty (52.5 percent) and extreme poverty (16.4 percent), which is defined as below half the federal poverty level.

Indeed, the report notes that an updated analysis by the Brookings Institution found that Rochester has the third-highest concentration of poor people living in extremely poor neighborhoods. While this is the same as before, the number of extremely poor Rochester neighborhoods has grown to 37 from 27.

The new RACF-ACT Rochester report also examines self-sufficiency—how much income is needed above the federal poverty level to be financially self-sufficient. Its conclusion: Only one-third of all city of Rochester residents are at this level.

The two organizations state plainly that “since publication of (the earlier) reports, little change has occurred in the numbers.” But, they add, “noteworthy changes have transpired in our community’s readiness to act.”

These efforts include the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative and work by the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council and the broad coalition involved in the ROC the Future initiative, which will deliver its own progress update next week.

So, the numbers that really matter now are the dozens of organizations and thousands of area residents who are committed to the long battle against poverty here.

10/21/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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