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Poverty in Buffalo: Causes, Impacts, Solutions

Date: Apr 10, 2018
Author(s): Sam Magavern, Hayley Ross, Melissa Kathan, Orlando Dickson, Chad Davenport, David Clayton, Alyssa Bergsten
Topic(s): Poverty / Income Inequality: General
Type: Report

Poverty in Buffalo-Niagara is concentrated in urban areas. It is segregated and racialized. One major cause of poverty is jobs that do not pay enough. Other major causes include disability, unaffordable housing, and lack of public transit access to quality jobs. Fifty years after Martin Luther King, Jr. launched the Poor People’s Campaign, the nation’s commitment to reducing poverty has rarely been weaker, and millions of people are suffering as a result. Poverty is not natural or inevitable; rather, it reflects policy choices. The key findings from this study of poverty in Buffalo-Niagara include the following.

This policy report examines the scope of poverty and inequality in Buffalo-Niagara, the causes of poverty, and its impacts across health, homelessness, education, and more. It features the insights of testifiers and commissioners from the Buffalo Truth Commission on Poverty, convened on January 25, 2018 by the Coalition for Economic Justice, the WNY Poor People's Campaign, and the New York State Truth Commission on Poverty. The report concludes with solutions from the local to the federal level.

It was drafted by was drafted by Sam Magavern, Executive Director at Partnership for the Public Good, with research and contributions by University at Buffalo School of Law students Alyssa Bergsten, David Clayton, Chad Davenport, Orlando Dickson, Melissa Kathan, and Hayley Ross.

Key Findings

  • In 2016, Buffalo-Niagara’s poverty rate was 13.8 percent, lower than the state rate of 14.7 percent and the national rate of 14 percent.
  • The region is not unusually poor, but it is unusually unequal in geographic and racial terms.
    • Of households with incomes below $10,000, 48 percent live in Buffalo.
    • The 2016 poverty rate in the city of Buffalo was 30.5 percent.
  • The region’s poverty rate for African-Americans was 32.3 percent while for whites it was only 9.3 percent.
  • Only 14 percent of the region’s white people live in areas of concentrated poverty, but 64 percent of people of color do.