December 20, 2018 | Featured, Issues, News

Overall Citywide Level of Inequality Improved Slightly, With Positive and Negative Results Across Areas


New York, NY – The fourth annual Equality Indicators report released today found that inequality in New York City has improved slightly overall from the 2015 baseline, with a mix of positive and negative results in specific areas, demonstrating the difficulty in combating enmeshed disparities.

The report was released by the Equality Indicators, a project of the City University of New York Institute for State and Local Governance (ISLG) with funding from The Rockefeller Foundation.

“With a few years of data, we can now start to see the beginning of trends and where some policies may be making impacts. And we are starting to see a few specific areas where that has happened,” said Victoria Lawson, project director of the Equality Indicators. “Still, the data also indicates the seemingly intractable nature of inequality facing so many disadvantaged people in the city. Our hope is that over time, policymakers and stakeholders across the city are able to use these measures help to create systemic change in all of New York City, making it a place where everyone can thrive.”

With an overall score of 48.52 out of a possible 100, the report found that disadvantaged groups—women, racial and ethnic minorities, non-citizens, those with disabilities, etc.—remain almost twice as likely to experience negative outcomes in fundamental areas of life, compared to those not disadvantaged. Last year had similar findings and a similar overall score, at 48.73, while 2016 was 46.01 and the 2015 baseline score was 45.07.

“Inequality is complex and contextual, which can make it difficult to measure and, therefore, to address. But the Equality Indicators takes a thoughtful approach to this, breaking the larger issue down into a number of areas and topics that make progress toward greater equality not just measureable but also achievable,” said Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of ISLG. “By highlighting where improvements have occurred and where more progress is still needed, we are creating an approach for community stakeholders and policymakers at all levels to work together to effect real change.”

The Equality Indicators looks at inequality in New York City across six themes: Economy, Education, Health, Housing, Justice, and Services. Of the six themes, Services—such as access to transportation, Internet, and parks—followed by Education had the largest positive changes from last year, and the highest scores, which indicates the least amount of inequality among the six themes. There were also increases in score for Health and Justice, while Housing and Economy remained largely unchanged.

The report uncovered a wide array of insights into inequality in New York City, such as:

  • The percentages of people who think the government does not reflect the diversity of the NYC population increased from baseline for all racial and ethnic groups. In the current year, whites became the group most likely to report a lack of diversity in government (41.9%), compared to blacks (40.7%), contributing to a large positive change score and flipping the disparity between the two groups. While this change does not reflect improvement in racial and ethnic representation in government, it perhaps reflects an increase in awareness of the lack of diversity among all groups, particularly white New Yorkers. High percentages of Asians (39.6%) and Hispanics (36.4%) also did not think the government is diverse.
  • People who identified as heterosexual were more likely to be homeowners (32.8%) than people who identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (16.9%). However, the rates of homeownership for both groups decreased from baseline.
  • A relatively large decrease in uninsurance among Hispanic New Yorkers contributed to less disparity between Hispanics and whites. Uninsurance rates were lower for every racial and ethnic group compared to the baseline year: Hispanics were the most likely not to have health insurance (8.7%), followed by blacks (6.3%). Asians were the least likely to be uninsured at 4.9%, while 5.4% of whites lacked health insurance.

An additional component of the report is a public survey of more than 3,100 New Yorkers, which includes questions about what they believe to be the number one inequality issue currently facing the city. For the past three years respondents have been asked to choose from a list of six options which one they felt was the most important inequality problem in New York City. The top two concerns have remained steady over the past three years: housing or affordable housing, and income inequality or employment. While housing has been the top concern all three years running, the percentage of people identifying it as the biggest issue facing New Yorkers has increased, reaching almost half (45%) this year.

About the Equality Indicators

The Equality Indicators are a project of the Institute for State and Local Governance (ISLG), a nonpartisan research and policy institute within the City University of New York (CUNY). The Institute’s mission is to work with government and non-government organizations to improve systems to produce better results worthy of public investment and trust. We aim to advance data-driven approaches that influence policy and operations and that support work in diverse communities. In short, we help government—and organizations connected to it—do better. We focus on working with cities and states because they are ideal laboratories for developing new approaches to longstanding social problems, and are ripe with opportunities and momentum for real, sustainable change. For more information, please visit www.equalityindicators.org.