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Syracuse's Poverty Rate Drops to its Lowest in a Decade, But Still Among the Highest in the Nation

Scott Willis
WAER-FM 88.3

The latest numbers from the US Census Bureau show the poverty rate in the City of Syracuse declined to 30 percent in 2018 to its lowest rate in a decade.  Mayor Ben Walsh says that’s down about two percent from 2017.

The fact that 30 percent of citizens in the city live below the poverty line is no reason for celebration.  The progress that we're making in decreasing the number is reason to be encouraged, and gives us motivation that we are on the right track.” 


Walsh says early on, his administration identified contributing factors of poverty and how they could start to move the needle. 

Housing stability is an example.  That has a ripple effect on so many areas.  Educational attainment is another area we're looking at.  If a family is stable their home, there's a higher likelihood that the child will be able to make it to school consistently.  There's a higher chance that a parent will make it to work consistently.  If we focus on transportation, that helps people get where they need to go.  They all couple together and work together.”       

Walsh says it's important to remember there are people behind the numbers.

"Just yesterday I was on the south side, knocking on doors, talking to families.  You see that a lot of people are struggling in this community.  I never lose sight of that.  The numbers are important; we pride ourselves on being a data-driven organization.  But ultimately, it is people's lives that we are impacting."

The percentage of Syracuse children living in poverty declined by 3.4 percent to 44 percent in 2018.  Walsh is quick to add that the Census Bureau’s “American Community Survey” is a one-year snapshot of about 20 percent of the city’s population.  He says while they want to recognize any yearly change in numbers, a five-year window offers a more accurate picture of poverty in the city. 

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at