Alleviating poverty in New York City

Poverty is one of society’s oldest challenges, and organized efforts to alleviate it are almost as old as the issue itself. Today, New York City is making strides to address the causes and the effects of poverty through the twin prongs of public policy and private philanthropy.

Nearly a fifth of New Yorkers live in poverty, as measured either by income level or in comparison to those whose lives are less constrained by a daily struggle for survival. Over a third of working New Yorkers experience hardship—the ability to meet basic needs—in any given year. Studies have shown that poverty is a complex problem with many contributing factors. Some are universal, but others are directly related to the challenges of urban living, especially in a city where inequality is growing.

Responding to the crisis, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has set a goal of lifting 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty or near poverty by 2025. While the city has made steady progress—there were 141,000 fewer New Yorkers living in or near poverty in 2016 than there were three years earlier—the goal remains ambitious.

Philanthropic focus areas

The city has many partners in the fight to end poverty. Philanthropic organizations continue to make important contributions to poverty alleviation in three areas: hardship mitigation, economic empowerment and advocacy.

Hardship mitigation deals with the most basic human needs: food, shelter and clothing. Philanthropic efforts run the gamut—from book bags for children to complex projects, such as leveraging technology to help people experiencing hardship to identify public health benefits.

Economic empowerment aims to give New Yorkers of all ages the skills necessary to achieve financial security. Programs in this field range from early childhood interventions that identify and treat developmental disabilities to workforce-readiness efforts that target adults.

Advocacy initiatives seek to mobilize public support for solving the broader, systemic issues related to poverty. These efforts might include raising awareness of the problem, ensuring that those affected by government programs have a voice in developing policy, and encouraging citizens and governments to do more to alleviate poverty.

Understanding the challenges faced by low-income New Yorkers is a first step toward making a meaningful difference. Philanthropists can advance progress in the form of a one-time gift to ensure the delivery of critical services or may make a longer-term commitment to help tackle the root causes of poverty. As anti-poverty initiatives continue to evolve, there are opportunities to support proven interventions and explore new approaches.

Resources for learning more

To discover the many ways to have an impact, read the full brief and explore the work of local innovators. Also, begin a discussion with one of the organizations that provides research about—and analysis of—evidence-based approaches to ending poverty. A few of these organizations include:


Poverty funders

Poverty researchers

The J.P. Morgan Philanthropy Brief: Alleviating Poverty in New York City includes more information on how individuals can make a difference, highlights notable funders, and provides helpful resources for those who want to explore more. Please contact your J.P. Morgan advisor to receive your copy of the report.



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