Poverty and the widening income divide are complex and recurring issues in the United States. New York City (NYC), which is urban megapolis chosen for this paper, holds one of the highest poverty rates in the country. The poverty rate in the city is at 19.5 percent, while near-poverty levels are at an extremely high 43.5 percent, both indicators far above national average rates (The Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity, n.d.). NYC is commonly represented in the media for its urban environment, luxurious lifestyle, and highly developed economy. While incremental improvements are being made to address poverty, this issue has been ongoing for more than a decade and has been the center of much public and political discussion. This paper will analyze recent news publications regarding the urban issue of poverty in NYC and determine how the city is represented in the media.
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The issue of poverty in NYC is portrayed as generally horrible and complex, as many articles demonstrate statistics of the staggering poverty rates. The problem is caused by low wages and climbing prices, particularly on property and rent, with few benefits. Furthermore, the articles highlight that poverty disproportionately affects minorities, especially African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics which have poverty rates higher than non-Hispanic Whites by more than 10 percent (Oh, 2014).
It seems that no matter the subject matter or political perspective of the article, most agree that it is a disconcerting issue for NYC. There are numerous references to the stark contrast of the city’s affluent neighborhoods and firms where average income exceeds $100,000 with the large housing projects where incomes are approximately $15,000, far less than the $31,000 poverty line established by the NYC government. This stratification is greatly felt by residents and impacts certain decision-making and opportunities for the city such as the proposal to build Amazon headquarters nearby one of the housing projects. The high-tech hub would offer neither jobs nor opportunities for the impoverished residents, and the backlash led to the eventual cancellation of the plans (Kilgannon, 2018). Therefore, there is a certain portrayal of the city as focused on development benefiting the wealthier populations while only applying incremental or superficial policy to create meaningful change for those in poverty.
The representation in the media regarding the issue is narrow, providing perspectives from politicians, the NYC government, advocates, and even some residents but focusing primarily on one source. The article regarding the development mentioned above did provide a voice to the people. However, the majority of the news media seems to be focused on Mayor Bill de Blasio and other government officials. The mayor’s stance is against stratification and is focusing on numerous programs, including those for environmental sustainability, on addressing critical poverty issues. He is quoted as, “A beautifully sustainable city that is the playground of the rich doesn’t work for us” (Flegenheimer, 2015, para. 6). While it is expected that officials and leaders will be more present in news publications, the disproportionality of sources and focus for the major news organization is concerning. A greater variety of inputs and opinions should be present, particularly on a complex and divisive issue such as poverty that often differs in policy and practice.
The extent of the poverty issue and the effectiveness of government programs meant to address it has been a rather controversial topic of discussion with varying opinions. One perspective that seems more believable comes from experts in the field of economics and business, both inside the government and external. It is these experts who often identify weaknesses in the policy. An article by Justin Fox (2019) suggests that the attempt to overcome poverty through job creation is ineffective. Considering that NYC has experienced tremendous job growth for over two decades with little impact on poverty rates, “it is nonetheless at least possibly a signal that New York City’s jobs boom is failing to benefit a lot of New York City residents” (Fox, 2019, para. 7). Expert opinions are more reliable as they examine a combination of data and make conclusions based on it, without any political reputation to consider.
Meanwhile, it is difficult to find government and Mayor de Blasio’s statements reliable. He has outlined extensive programs which promise to lift more than 800,000 residents out of poverty by 2025 along with major changes to housing, education, and other relevant programs (Toure, 2018). The promises and expanse of the policy seem unconvincing as it provides little data to back its success other than identifying that rates have hit the lowest levels since the 2008 Financial Crisis. However, the initiatives such as raising minimum wages, providing more jobs to the poor, and public housing renovations are all policies that have had little practical backing and seem to be more of a political statement rather than a potential resolution.
In general, the articles do differ slightly in perspective but attempt to remain relatively objective about the issue. There is no open bias, but rather an argumentation based on presented facts and opinions. The differences can be traced back to the individuals whose perspectives are presented, but there seems to be a universal approach to the issue, that it is prevalent and current attempts at resolving it are ineffective. Commonly perspectives may differ due to political affiliations or personal bias of the journalist or newspaper, but this was not evident in these sources. The unanimity and objective of coverage and representation may be beneficial as it would create pressure on the NYC government to consider poverty more seriously in its policies. Furthermore, it may benefit to include citizens and experts in the process of forming solutions. NYC which has always valued its public image may benefit from such critical coverage.
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Flegenheimer, M. (2015). New York City’s environment program will focus on income inequality. The New York Times. Web.
Fox, J. (2019). New York City already has lots of jobs, thank you. Bloomberg. Web.
Kilgannon, C. (2018). Amazon’s new neighbor: The nation’s largest housing project. The New York Times. Web.
Oh, I. (2014). Half of New York City is living in near poverty. Huffington Post. Web.
The Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity. (n.d.). Poverty measure. Web.
Toure, M. (2018). New York City poverty rate hits lowest level since Great Recession. Observer. Web.