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.