Ns News Online Desk: New York City’s shrinking middle class is now in full retreat, as masses of our most endangered population depart the city in numbers not seen since the Depression, according to analysts.
After decades of sharp income erosion in the face of relentless taxes, escalating living costs and wage reductions through technological changes, the full extent of this shocking exodus is laid bare in the latest US Census data. That shows the city is losing 100 residents each day — with departures exceeding new arrivals.
“The rich in New York City are getting richer; the poor are actually getting richer, but not rich enough to be middle class,” said Peter C. Earle, an economist at the American Institute for Economic Research, who has studied other data, noting the expansion in welfare and entitlement programs.
Earle said it isn’t unreasonable to assume middle-class incomes are falling even faster in New York City than in other major US cities, because of the city’s high — and rising — housing and other living costs. New York City’s middle class comprises 48 percent of city residents, with median annual incomes between $30,000 and $60,000. Thirty-one percent make lower incomes, and the ranks of the rich account for 21 percent of New York City residents.
By contrast, in the early 1970s, about 61 percent of New Yorkers were ensconced in the middle class; today, fewer than half are. “The middle class is getting squeezed,” said Earle.
For example, of the estimated 175,000 net new private-sector jobs that have been created in New York City since 2017, fewer than 20 percent are paying middle- class salaries, Earle notes.
The arrival of highly paid Amazon jobs in Long Island City will hardly make a dent in that situation, say analysts. And if anything, the estimated $3 billion in subsidies could saddle taxpayers with huge long-term debt, they add. The persistent shrinking of the middle class nationwide — and especially in cities like New York — is evident in boarded-up retail stores, reflecting rising rents and slackening consumer demand.
National chain-store locations have plunged in the city by 0.3 percent, to 7,849, this year, according to the Center for an Urban Future. And a record 18 chains, including Aerosoles and Nine West, vacated all their city sites in 2018.
One sector doing a booming “business” is food pantries. Despite a city unemployment rate of 4 percent, New York food pantries report elevated levels of demand, especially during the holiday season. More than 1 million New Yorkers now worry they won’t have enough food for their families, according to recent studies.