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Community Service Society: Exploring Priorities and Concerns Among Low-Income Individuals and Families

community service society

The Issue 
The Community Service Society is a crucial voice for those living below or near the poverty line in New York, approximately one third of New York City residents. Since 2002, Lake Research Partners has partnered with the Community Service Society in an effort to survey both low and moderate to high-income New Yorkers. Entitled “The Unheard Third,” the survey explores perceptions around current policy as well as a core set of questions, including employment status, hardships, public assistance, and health insurance status. The survey is unique in its focus on low-income communities and in the depth of the trend data from this study.

The Challenge 
Each year presents a new set of challenges as we explore the most pressing policy issues facing New York City. Distinguishing between income levels and accounting for the number of immigrants in the city, the growing number of those with only cell phones, and other evolving demographic trends present challenging methodological issues. We are also constantly looking for ways to spot changes and hardships, such as food insecurity or growing debt.

The Outcome 
Using data from The Unheard Third, the Community Service Society has taken the needs and concerns of low income New Yorkers to the Mayor, policy leaders, and the media. With these and other stakeholders, they have worked to:

  • Demonstrate the need for expanded health coverage;
  • Demonstrate major food insecurity, and appropriate policy responses – e.g., making it easier for folks to get Food Stamps;
  • Support our workforce development agenda – showing the jobless need increased education and training, and need health insurance;
  • Engage the labor movement on joint policy priorities – showing union jobs are better jobs; and
  • Partner with women’s groups on joint policy priorities – showing women face more hardships than men.

The Methodology 
The survey includes both low-income New Yorkers (under 200 percent of the Federal Policy Line - FPL) and moderate to high-income residents (above 200 percent FPL). In the most recent iterations of the survey, the total sample was comprised of 1,000 low-income residents and 500 moderate to high-income New Yorkers. Respondents are screened based on household size and income at the start of the survey to determine whether they qualify for the low or moderate to high-income samples.

2008 Report 
The findings from the 2008 Unheard Third report may be found here.

The Team 
Lake Research Partners (Celinda LakeAlysia SnellAnita SharmaCate Gormley
Community Service Society