Introduction

Syracuse has the 13th worst poverty rate among cities of the United States. And our poverty epidemic is not restricted to Syracuse; many of our region’s rural communities suffer from extreme scarcity as well. But what does this really mean for the residents of our neighborhoods?

Poverty Icon

It means lack of access to proper healthcare and affordable fresh foods. It means limited transportation options to get to and from work reliably, inadequate quality child care options, and limited savings for emergencies. And it often means living in unsafe housing or neighborhoods riddled with violence.

Our young children living in poverty are facing challenges some adults would find insurmountable – when walking to school through unsafe neighborhoods or going to bed hungry, it can be hard to concentrate on your studies. And children that fall behind in school are less likely to complete high school and college, making it hard to later become employed to support a family.

Clearly, the poverty epidemic in Central New York is detailed and complex. With it comes a series of causes and effects that make the solution seem almost unattainable.

But with every mentored child, job preparedness program or public policy change, the cycle of poverty begins to crack open. While our indicators in this section demonstrate the level of poverty in our region, it is important to remember that many of the indicators on this site are all connected to one another, and that the progress or decline of one can have a significant effect on the outcomes of another, especially our region’s poverty rates.

Living in Poverty

Poverty Population by Age/Gender - Onondaga County

Poverty Population by Age/Gender - Madison County

Poverty Population by Age/Gender - Oswego County

Poverty Population by Age/Gender - Cayuga County

Poverty Population by Age/Gender - Cortland County

Poverty Population by Age/Gender - Syracuse

Poverty Population by Age/Gender - Oneida

Poverty Population by Age/Gender - Oswego City

Poverty Population by Age/Gender - Auburn

Poverty Population by Age/Gender - Cortland City

Population Below the Poverty Line - Onondaga County

Population Below the Poverty Line - Madison County

Population Below the Poverty Line - Oswego County

Population Below the Poverty Line - Cayuga County

Population Below the Poverty Line - Cortland County

Population Below the Poverty Line - Syracuse

Population Below the Poverty Line - Oneida

Population Below the Poverty Line - Oswego City

Population Below the Poverty Line - Auburn

Population Below the Poverty Line - Cortland City

Population in Poverty Over Time - Onondaga County

Population in Poverty Over Time - Madison County

Population in Poverty Over Time - Oswego County

Population in Poverty Over Time - Cayuga County

Population in Poverty Over Time - Cortland County

Population in Poverty Over Time - Syracuse

Population in Poverty Over Time - Oneida

Population in Poverty Over Time - Oswego City

Population in Poverty Over Time - Auburn

Population in Poverty Over Time - Cortland City

Let's Break It Down

Local poverty has a woman’s face.

Data based on age and gender in the city of Syracuse and all five Central New York counties reflect the “feminization of poverty” or the phenomenon that women disproportionally make up the face of poverty. Women ages 18 to 34 living in Central New York experience the highest likelihoods of poverty with 22 percent of women living below the threshold compared to 14 percent of men. And over time, more women than men live in poverty in all five counties and across all age groups.

Children in Syracuse make up the majority of children living in poverty in Onondaga County and thus the region, though all five counties in the region show high rates of childhood poverty. The highest concentrations lie within Syracuse census tracts with high populations of immigrants, African Americans and Hispanics. In Madison County, high rates of rural poverty exist, with the city of Oneida experiencing the largest concentration. 

Using the United States official measure, our indicators showcase poverty levels based on the minimum level of income necessary to meet basic needs.

Why Does It Matter?

With over 45,000 people living in poverty in Syracuse, the entire region is affected.

When communities thrive, a flourishing economic pattern increases prosperity.  When communities fail, a vicious cycle feeds generational poverty, making it difficult to break. Poverty is related to numerous systemic issues that affect the quality of life in our region — safe and affordable housing, quality education, healthy food, reliable transportation and more — making its implications complicated and vast. From 2009 to 2015, the number of people living in poverty increased over 17 percent in Syracuse and 19 percent in Onondaga County. And poverty is not only constrained to urban areas: it increased over 30 percent from 2009 to 2015 in Madison County.

In rural areas, services are often a great distance away and residents are faced with no or limited public transportation. Lack of access to needed services, jobs and reliable transportation create huge barriers to maintaining employment and receiving healthcare.

Living on a low income consequently affects a child’s ability to succeed in school. Children living in poverty are not exposed to the same learning opportunities as their wealthier counterparts and can experience lifelong effects from the disparity. With schools largely funded by property taxes, education inequities cause this problem to persist in low-income neighborhoods.

By serving as our urban center, a thriving Syracuse can lead to a strong commercial and cultural identity for the region, drawing in residents and offering job opportunities for a sustainable economy. Surrounding areas cannot thrive without a successful urban core, making it more important than ever that we all monitor and address these poverty statistics head-on.

With over 45,000 people living in poverty in Syracuse, the entire region is affected.

A Local Story

Putting a Spotlight on Poverty

When Helen Hudson speaks, her voice has been known to send waves across Syracuse. She has long been an advocate for people that have been suppressed and go unheard, particularly those living in poverty.

Hudson knows what it’s like to try to keep afloat, too. As a single mother caring for her son at the time, she was faced with making crucial life decisions on a daily basis while living paycheck-to-paycheck: do the lights stay on or does she feed her son?

“I’ve always taken pride in showing young, single parents – preferably single mothers – that you can be in a circumstance, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay in that circumstance,” said Hudson. “That’s why I do what I do and share my stories.”

Now, as the President of the Syracuse Common Council, she pipes up when asked if we are making headway in eradicating poverty; her passion on the subject is felt in the room.

“It almost feels like we are going backwards,” said Hudson. “We have to change the landscape of what we’re dealing with in Onondaga County and Syracuse.”

According to Hudson, the root cause of poverty cuts deep within the community. In essence, she feels that we need to come together and have candid, sometimes uncomfortable, conversations.

Despite record low unemployment numbers state-wide and nationally, Hudson points out that unemployment in minority communities, especially among African American males, is more like 18-22 percent – a reality that needs to be highlighted.

“We have a community now that’s so engrained [in poverty],” said Hudson. “They figure, ‘What difference is it going to make if I try and do something?’ So, now we have to try and start working on the mindsets, especially when it comes to the younger generation. We need to let them know you can come from ANY community in this area and be anything you want to be.”

Hudson notes that without the services of nonprofit organizations – particularly programs funded by the United Way and the Catholic Charities food pantry – she would have never made it when she was struggling.

“The resources are there,” said Hudson. “We have to make sure these folks know they are there. We have to continue to tell our communities they are great, our people are great. We can do anything.”

“The resources are there,” said Hudson. “We have to make sure these folks know they are there. We have to continue to tell our communities they are great, our people are great. We can do anything.”

What You Can Do

Give input and get involved.

Whether you’re an experienced volunteer, an activist, a student, working professional, or a stay-at-home parent, there are roles both big and small that you can play to shape the future of the region.

See Additional Opportunities View All
Volunteer
Serve food at the Samaritan Center Learn More »
Donate
Deliver food or clothing to CazCares Food Pantry and Clothing Closet Learn More »
Take Action
Join a community action group Learn More »
Civic Engagement
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