Rochester among poorest cities in the country

Dec 10, 2013

Rochester is the fifth poorest city in the country among the top 75 metro areas, according to a new report from the Rochester Area Community Foundation and ACT Rochester.

Author of the report, Ed Doherty says the city’s poverty rate ranks second among cities of a comparable size, just ahead of Buffalo.

And, he says, children and minorities are bearing the brunt.

“In the city of Rochester nearly 50 percent of our children are living in poverty. African Americans and Latinos in our region are three times more likely to be poor than are whites,” Doherty says.

He says minority groups in the Rochester region are also more likely to be poorer than their counterparts elsewhere.

More than 160,000 people live below the federal poverty line in the nine county Greater Rochester region.

Jennifer Leonard, president and CEO of the community foundation, says these numbers are unacceptable.

“Our concentrated poverty is deeper and more concentrated and touches more people than almost any other city in America. This is unconscionable, this is not who we are and this is certainly not who we want to be,” she says.

Rochester’s poverty level is currently only five percentage points behind the bankrupt city of Detroit, and it’s jump 5 percent in the past decade.

It’s time to stop that trend and start creating opportunities for impoverished residents, says George Moses of Northeast Area Development.

“As we come out of this let’s not make programs that manage poverty. We don’t want programs that will manage poverty and make it comfortable for people to stay impoverished. What we’re talking about at the neighborhood level is how can we create opportunities?”

Rochester is home to the poorest school district in the upstate area. But the problem isn’t confined to the city. More than 60 percent of people living below the poverty line reside in areas outside Rochester.

He says poverty is also a problem outside the city, with nearly 60 percent of the region’s poor living in other cities, towns and villages.