The City of Syracuse has reviewed U.S. Census data and issued a report showing that while the poverty rate has fallen to 32 percent, there are five conditions that more negatively impact residents here than other major Upstate Cities.
The city report is entitled “Below the Line: An Analysis of Barriers to Opportunity in Syracuse,” and highlights workforce participation, educational attainment, housing stability, transportation and internet access as barriers with a high impact in Syracuse. I-team member and Chief Data Officer, Sam Edelstein explains that while there’s not a silver lining to eliminating poverty, quality of life can be improved.
"Even if we fix all five of these things there will still be poverty in this community, most likely. These are the things that the city has some control over and that there is movement towards trying to tackle generally. So I think we can start here and then go forward."
Workforce participation as a means to end poverty is one of the main goals, and transportation can be a significant barrier for getting to work. Edelstein says the two may be related.
"From certain parts of the city to certain major employers, either in or outside of the city, then maybe those two things line up, where you see if someone has a hard time getting to work, then maybe there is not a job that makes sense for them to take. Now that is probably too simple of a reading. There is a lot more to go and really determine what the basic problems are."
Residents in poverty also tend to move frequently, something that Edelstein says could mean relocating even further away from a job. Despite higher graduation rates, third grade reading levels are still lagging in Syracuse and he thinks that only one out of every two city households having the internet could be a significant barrier to educational attainment. He says everyone should have the opportunity they deserve.
"The first step is just understanding what's out there and understanding where we agree with what the numbers are showing and then also where need to understand where there is some limitation on data specifically from the census."
Housing stability is another one of the issues that Edelstein says gives the city context as to what should be examined closer from a data and policy perspective. Edelstein says the latest Census 2017 American Community Survey is being used as a guide to make real change in the lives of city residents.
WAER has spent the past year taking a close look at the many issues surrounding poverty through the City Limits Project, including housing, transportation, and workforce development to name a few. All episodes can be found at City Limits project.org