NYC True Cost of Living

One out of three New York City households lack enough income to cover necessities, such as food, housing, health care, & child care. This translates to nearly 2.4 million men, women, and children who are struggling to make ends meet.

Yet less than a third of that number are designated as “poor,” according to the federal official poverty measure. Consequently, a large number of people in New York City experiencing economic distress are routinely overlooked and undercounted—and this remains true during the ongoing economic fallout from the pandemic. Many working families are struggling to meet their most basic needs, but because they earn “too much” income, they do not qualify for most work supports. To make things even worse, their efforts are aggravated by the reality that the cost of living continues to rise faster than wages in New York City.

While the full impact of the pandemic on working families’ financial well-being is still under research, Overlooked and Undercounted 2021 offers a baseline against which to measure the economic impact of Covid-19 as well as the effectiveness of mitigating policies and benefits. It is already clear, however, that there is an urgent need for bold policy reforms that make food, housing, health care, and child care more affordable, increase worker income and pay parity, and ensure an adequate safety net that protects all people. It is critical to provide an equitable recovery across every neighborhood in New York City.

The NYC True Cost of Living project (formerly the NYC Self-Sufficiency Standard) measures how much income is needed to meet families’ basic necessities, without any public or private assistance. We use the NYC True Cost of Living to better understand the realities so many of our neighbors are facing.

We invite you to explore what we’ve learned below with these interactive tools:


2021 Report

The Women’s Center for Education & Career Advancement

Center for Women’s Welfare at the University of Washington

United Way of New York City
The Fund for the City of New York
The New York Women’s Foundation
City Harvest
Food Bank For New York City
Hunger Free New York City (a division of Hunger Free America)


The next NYC True Cost of Living report will be published in 2023, with the support of the United Way of New York City and a nonprofit coalition.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about the NYC True Cost of Living

Please visit page 62 of the New York State Self-Sufficiency Standard report for a complete methodological overview.

The primary data sources are:

  • The American Community Survey, produced by the U.S. Census Bureau
  • The New York State Child Care Market Rate Survey, produced by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services
  • Fiscal Year (FY) Fair Market Rents (FMRs) data, produced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Please visit page 62 of the New York State Self-Sufficiency Standard report for a complete overview of data sources.

For more information, please refer to Measuring Poverty and the True Cost of Living in the U.S..

The Brooklyn and Manhattan divisions are based on differences in the cost of housing.

The 2017 New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey median gross rents for sub-boroughs within Manhattan were used to adjust housing costs for what is referred to as “North Manhattan” and “South Manhattan” in the report. Note that these areas do not necessarily align with the commonly understood geographic boundaries of Lower and Upper Manhattan. The two areas were determined by grouping together sub-boroughs with similar housing costs. The traditional border of 14th Street for Lower Manhattan left out high housing cost areas such as Chelsea, Clinton, Turtle Bay, and the Upper East and Upper West Side.

The geographic area of North Manhattan for the purposes of this report includes the following sub-boroughs: Morningside Heights/Hamilton Heights, Central Harlem, East Harlem, and Washington Heights/Inwood. The sub-boroughs included in the geographic area of South Manhattan are: Greenwich Village/ Financial District, Lower East Side/ Chinatown, Chelsea/Clinton/Midtown, Stuyvesant Town/Turtle Bay, Upper West Side, and Upper East Side.

Northwest Brooklyn includes the following sub-boroughs: Williamsburg/Greenpoint, Brooklyn Heights/Fort Greene, and Park Slope/Carroll Gardens. The subboroughs included in the remainder of Brooklyn include: Brownsville/Ocean Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant, East New York/Starrett City, Coney Island, North Crown Heights/Prospect Heights, Flatlands/Canarsie, East Flatbush, South Crown Heights, Sheepshead Bay/Gravesend, Bensonhurst, Bushwick, Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Borough Park, and Flatbush.

After the Self-Sufficiency Standards are calculated for these areas, the Standard is assigned to each Public Use Microdata Area (PUMA).

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