SCHENECTADY — Adults who grew up in Schenectady’s Hamilton Hill neighborhood now live on average on $21,000 a year; those who grew up just a few miles away in Niskayuna earn $75,000 on average.
Over 7 percent of the Hamilton Hill natives studied, now in their late-30s, are incarcerated; less than 1 percent of the Niskayuna natives are incarcerated. While over half of the Niskayuna progeny make enough money to register in the top 20 percent of U.S. households, less than 3 percent of those raised in Hamilton Hill have entered the top 20 percent of incomes.
The disparities — outlined in a new visualization of U.S. Census data released this week — continue to pile up for children born in the nearby communities between 1978 and 1983: nearly 60 percent of the Niskayuna kids are married, compared with 18 percent of the Schenectady kids; 82 percent of the Niskayuna natives are employed, while 69 percent of the Hamilton Hill natives are. And the kids raised in Niskayuna were far more likely to move away from the area — just 38 percent of the Niskayuna kids still live in the region, while 77 percent of the Schenectady kids have remained close to home.
The stats are hardly new, but the Opportunity Atlas, the product of a partnership between the U.S. Census Bureau and researchers from Stanford and Harvard, paints a stark picture of the disparities that underpin the deeply different realities for adults raised only a few blocks or miles from one another.
“Hamilton Hill is in poverty. You go there and there is poverty,” said Marva Isaacs, president of the Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association. “It’s very hard for people, and it’s not getting any better.”
Isaacs said the neighborhood lacks access to basic amenities like a grocery store and pharmacy and the public transportation needed to reach the nearest stores. She also pointed to a lack of community gathering spaces that can be used throughout the year. And of the new affordable housing units that have opened in recent years, Isaacs said the rents are still too high for many Hamilton Hill residents.
“It is too expensive, it’s not affordable,” she said of recently constructed apartments in the community.
Even within Schenectady city limits, children raised in different neighborhoods have widely variable outcomes as adults: those raised in the neighborhoods around and north of Schenectady High School on average made over $50,000 as adults — more than twice the earnings of kids raised in Hamilton Hill.
The intense childhood poverty — and its legacy in adulthood — focused in and around Hamilton Hill aren’t unique within the Capital Region. Natives of neighborhoods in the urban cores of Albany and Troy also registered average incomes just over $20,000 a year. Those cities don’t appear to be doing any better of a job at helping to lift the children born in the poorest neighborhoods out of poverty.
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy during his budget presentation Monday said the revitalization of Schenectady’s core downtown was starting to spread to other parts of the city. In an interview Tuesday, he said the citywide deployment of high-tech light poles, which will provide internet connectivity and collect data that can be used to improve quality of life, will help close the “educational gap” within the city.
Also see: Smart City initiative gets the go-ahead, June 14, 2018
As the city’s wireless infrastructure improves, students in the city schools will be able to rely more and more on online textbooks and other educational tools. The wireless connection will also enable adults to tap into online and remote classes, he said.
“How do we make sure they have access to that not only at school but at home and other places?” McCarthy said.
With the high-tech street lamps collecting data, the city will be able to makes its delivery of basic city services, like repaving distressed roads, more efficient, helping to improve the lives of residents throughout the city.
Kristin Diotte, Schenectady director of planning, zoning and community development, said city officials are looking to more effectively pinpoint where in the city federal housing grants should be focused. She also said new city programs aim to connect residents to job training and other ways of strengthening the city’s overall workforce and pairing people with jobs.
LEAVING THE SUBURBS
The Opportunity Atlas, which offers a view into census data at the level of neighborhood-sized census tracts, also offers insight into which neighborhoods are seeing their youth move elsewhere in adulthood.
Affluent suburban communities saw the highest rate of youth leaving for other regions, with around 40 percent of Niskayuna kids remaining in the area in adulthood, the lowest in the region. Meanwhile, a large percentage of the residents in urban cores remain in those areas when adults. Over 70 percent of Schenectady youth remained in the city.
The percentage of residents leaving rural areas varied widely, with rural parts of Montgomery County outside Amsterdam retaining just over half of their residents, while around 70 percent of the children who grew up in Schoharie and Middleburgh remained in the area as adults.
Retention rates also varied widely among Gloversville neighborhoods. Nearly 75 percent of people raised in southern Gloversville remained in the area in adulthood, while only about half of the residents raised in the northeast part of Gloversville remained in the area as adults.