SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOAL 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

Target 1.2:  By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.


Poverty in America is defined by household income using federal or locally defined thresholds. defines poverty as the income level required to pay for food, shelter, clothing and utilities, adjusted for the higher cost of housing in New York City. Income includes 1) after-tax earnings (including tax credits) plus 2) the value of benefits (SNAP, housing vouchers, etc.) minus 3) necessary expenses (i.e. medical, commuting and childcare costs).

The poverty threshold for a family of four in NYC is $33,000 and for the single person its $16,000. This translates into $10 to $15 per hour for a full time worker.


1 in 5 New Yorkers (19.6%) live in poverty at a time when the national poverty rate is 14.6%.

The poverty rate for full time workers in NYC is 4% versus 39% for the 1.5 million people who do not work. It seems kind of obvious, if you work full time you generally avoid poverty. This statistic indicates NYC does a fairly good job keeping people out of poverty when they work full time.

A deeper dive into the statistics reveal some of the difficulties certain groups face finding full time employment.

  • Female households with no partner have a 30.8% poverty rate versus a married couplesfamily poverty rate of 12%.
  • Adults without a high school diploma have a poverty rate of 32% versus 7% for adults with a bachelor’s degree.
  • 30% of people with a disability live in poverty.

New York City can bring down the poverty rate by helping these groups find full time employment. For instance, a single mom may require free onsite daycare, the high school dropout may need counseling and/or job training and people with disabilities need accommodations. There are reasons behind why these and other groups struggle to find work and if we address the reasons, poverty will go down.  


New York City’s high poverty rate is about a lack of full time jobs for the “hard to employ”. Whether it is providing daycare, job training, better accommodations for the disabled or interview clothing, any activity that moves a person from unemployment to full time work will have a significant long-term effect on poverty. Until NYC can address job creation for the hard to employ, it will continue to have a serious issue with poverty and will not meet Sustainable Development Goal 1, Target 1.2 of reducing poverty by 50% by 2030.


The above article is intended to raise awareness that the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) apply locally as much as globally and is not intended to present a solution. Solutions for SDGs are as diverse as the groups impacted, so I leave it to the reader to find their own SDG solution. Whether it’s activism, volunteering or investing, any contribution will make an impact.

For more information on this topic or impact investing contact ESGA at