Bloomberg says poverty numbers on his watch were better than other big cities'

A woman gives food to a homeless man. (Ed Yourdon)
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday that New York City was the only one of the nation's largest twenty cities that did not see an increase in poverty since the 2000 U.S. Census. 

The announcement was intended in part as a refutation of mayor-elect Bill de Blasio's "tale of two cities" message about inequality in the city, stressing a relative positive in the administration's efforts to address poverty.

The statistics were provided by the city's Center for Economic Opportunity, which used data from the U.S. Census Bureau from 2000 and 2012. 

"Poverty is still too high here," Bloomberg said in a speech at the Children's Aid Society on Thursday night, where he accepted an award for his administration's anti-poverty efforts.

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"And keeping poverty from going up is not enough, we all know that. But having no increase in poverty is a lot better than the significant increases every other major American city has experienced. Sometimes the best offense is a good defense, and that’s certainly true in this case."

The Bloomberg administration has been scrutinized over its record on inequality as de Blasio campaigned and won the mayorship on the premise that New York City is vastly economically unequal, thanks in large part to Bloomberg's policies. Bloomberg has argued that the rising gap between the city's rich and poor is partially attributable to the fact that more wealthy people live in New York than ever before. 

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The national poverty rate increased 28 percent during the twelve years of data collected by the Center for Economic Opportunity, while the city's rate remained flat, according to the mayor's office. 

The mayor's announcement comes amid increasingly attention, as the media writes its Bloomberg-legacy stories, to the results of the administration's efforts over the course the mayor's three terms to reckon with homelessness.

According to the city's own statistics, 46 percent of New Yorkers are poor or struggling to make ends meet, which is actually an increase since 2009.

Speaking on the radio this morning, Bloomberg said, "Philadelphia, poverty up 17 percent. Chicago and Houston, 22 percent both. San Francisco and Dallas, 33, 34 percent. Memphis 37, Austin 41. Indianapolis was up something like 88 percent. And because we haven’t gone up, we were in the top third of the cities with big poverty, we’re now in the lowest third of the cities with big poverty."

He said, “There's no question that poverty is still high."

But he attributed the relative stability of the rate in New York to, among other things, education.

“The percentage of black males that graduate has gone up 70 percent," he said. "If you don’t have a high school diploma, you can’t get most jobs."

 

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