Soaring Unemployment, Imprisonment, HIV Rates Among The Findings in New Study on Demographic Trends from NYU Wagner School.

NEW YORK, NY - Despite a range of hardships such as higher rates of unemployment, incarceration and AIDS, women of color remain the "invisible majority" of New York City and are ignored by policy makers and politicians, charge the authors of a new study from the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University.

Researched and drafted by NYU Wagner Professor Walter Stafford and graduate student Diana Salas, this report identifies alarming demographic trends among women of color - black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American - who have been the majority of New York City's women since the 1990 census. According to 2000 census figures, almost two thirds (64%) of women in New York City are women of color.

Entitled "Women of Color: Two-Thirds of all Women in New York City Still Invisible in Policy - The 2nd Annual Report on The Status of Women of Color in NYC," the study was sponsored by the Women of Color Policy Network at NYU Wagner and the Roundtable of Institutions of People of Color, with funding from the Ford Foundation and the New York Community Trust.

The research finds a near doubling of the proportion of women of color aged 16 to 24 incarcerated for prostitution, jumping from 25% of all women arrested and imprisoned for that crime in 1995, to 42% in 2001. The arrest rate for black women - the highest among women - in New York City is now higher than that of white men.

At the same time, unemployment for single black mothers in the city is 10.9 percent, more than double the 4.9 percent unemployment for single white mothers in 2001- a level significantly below the city average of 6.1 percent, and lower than the 1996 unemployment rate for all white women of 8.3 percent.

Professor Walter Stafford contends that if closer attention had been paid to the demographic trends he identifies in the report, further resources could have addressed treatable health problems, including the spiraling HIV cases among women of color, and the social conditions underlying the growing number of arrests and incarceration for drugs and prostitution. He argues, for example, that educational resources were not targeted to the growing number of young women of color, who are 76% of all women under age 15.

"For too long, despite their majority numbers, women of color have remained invisible to our leaders and policy makers," said Stafford. "This study shines a light on the particular problems faced by women of color and provides comprehensive information that legislators, administrators, and advocates can use to tailor polices and programs to meet their particular needs."

Stafford continued, "The question to our leaders is 'If you know about these problems, what are you going to do?' City and state policy makers ignored the growing hardships among women of color all through the 1990s, when times were flush and budgets were in the black. Now that the economy is in the tank and the city and state budget deficits seem to grow daily, there are fewer resources available to address the growing crisis we've identified in this study."

Stafford contends that although the 1990 census showed that the number of women of color had exceeded white women, few policy makers adjusted their viewpoints or policies to account for this new reality. The 2000 census confirmed this population trend and showed that 52% of all women living in Manhattan are either Asian, black, or Hispanic. Further, among the city's five boroughs, 83% of all females in the Bronx [the largest concentration in the city], 63% in Brooklyn and 61% in Queens are women of color.

The study is an examination of black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American women living in New York City, using statistical data from the census and other governmental and private sources. The report gathers in one, accessible place data on a broad range of topics such as fertility and births, living arrangements, health, education, employment, arrests and incarceration.

"The study shows that we cannot continue to ignore the lives of a majority of women living in New York City," said Pier C. Rogers, director of the Women of Color Policy Network. "The quality of their lives impacts children, families and the health of our communities. The policy issues connected to these persistent problems will require our targeted attention because the future of our city as a whole depends on it."

There are wide gaps in educational attainment, as well. In 2000, 59 percent of all the women who completed four or more years of college were white, compared to 17 percent black, 13 percent Asian, and 10 percent Hispanic. White women, who are 36 percent of New York City's female population, hold 65 percent of the professional and graduate degrees.

Although Asian women may appear not to have issues with educational attainment, a peculiar trend persists, researchers found. In 1990, 31 percent of Asian women had completed or moved beyond the bachelors degree; the figure increased to 35 percent in 2000. However, at the other end of the spectrum, almost an equal proportion of Asian women failed to complete high school at all-35% in 1990 and a slight decline to 33% percent in 2000. Those rates for Latinas are 33% and 35% for black women.

In addition, some of the new findings may have an impact in the current debate over marriage requirements in the new federal welfare reform legislation. The NYU Wagner School report shows that the median hourly wage for black women increases by just $1.37 when they marry. This compares to a more than $4.00 jump for white women when they marry.

To receive a copy of the full report and findings, please contact Ken Brown at 212 998-6808 or

NYU's Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, established in 1938, is known for its ability to integrate theory and practice. NYU Wagner offers advanced programs leading to the professional degrees of Master of Public Administration, Master of Urban Planning, Master of Science in Management and Doctor of Philosophy. At Wagner, students transform personal commitment into public leadership and engage with a faculty that is changing the way the world looks at issues of public concern. NYU Wagner School alumni are in leadership positions in nonprofit, health and public sector roles in this country and internationally.

New York University, established in 1831, is one of the largest and most prestigious private research universities in the United States. Through its 14 schools and colleges, NYU conducts research and provides education in the arts and sciences, law, medicine, dentistry, education, nursing, business, social work, the cinematic and performing arts, public administration and policy, and continuing studies, among other areas.

Press Contact