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Income gap between poor, rich widens in Queens: U.S. Census

The American Community Survey, released by the U.S. Census Bureau last Thursday showed a widening gap between the rich and poor in Queens in 2011.
TimesLedger Newspapers

The income gap between the rich and the poor widened in Queens last year from 2010, while poor households in the borough experienced a larger drop in income than the same category of people in the city as a whole, according to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau last Thursday.

Despite these setbacks, Queens still did not have as great a disparity in incomes as the city in general.

According to the American Community Survey, which measures statistics about people, the economy and housing throughout the country, the top fifth of Queens households made nearly 15 times more in income than did the lowest fifth in 2011, with the top fifth making on average $168,450 and the lowest fifth making $11,448.

That gap between the rich and the poor also widened by about $1,800 since 2010, when the top fifth of households made average incomes only 12 times higher than the lowest fifth.

In addition, the top 20 percent of Queens households were taking home a slightly larger share of the borough’s overall wealth in 2011 than they were the year before. In 2011, the top fifth made 48 percent of all income earned in the borough, up from 47 percent in 2010. But the lowest fifth’s share of income also dipped slightly in 2011 to about 3 percent.

The census figures for Queens, although stark, are not quite as grim as those for New York City. In 2011, the city’s top fifth of households made average incomes of more than 40 times higher than the lowest fifth, a figure also slightly higher than in 2010, when the fifth made 38 times as much.

In addition, the top fifth’s share of the city’s income was 57 percent in 2011, compared to the lower fifth’s 2.26 percent, numbers that were also shifting more to the top fifth’s favor since the previous year. The top fifth of city households made on average $214,441 more in income than the lowest fifth.

But the situation still remains dire for Queens’ middle and lower classes. The median household income in Queens was $53,572 in 2011, down $3,019 from 2010. The median earnings for workers were also down by $1,791 from the previous year to $31,054 in 2011.

The poor are also getting poorer in Queens and have seen a larger drop in income than the city’s poor, although the borough still did not hit the lows of the city’s poor. The average income for the lowest fifth of Queens households was down by $1,109 to $11,448 since 2010, compared to a drop of $463 to $8,844 for the same category in the city as a whole. But the lowest fifth in Queens still outearns the lowest fifth in the city by an average of more than $2,500.

The number of Queens families that fell below the poverty level in 2011 was 13 percent and approximately 116,000 households received cash public assistance or Food Stamps, both figures slightly higher than in 2010.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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