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Social Work Survey Shows NYC Residents Content Despite Lingering Concerns

By James Devitt

Displaying the resilient attitudes that have made them famous the world over, more New Yorkers now say the city is a better place to live than those surveyed in the years leading up to the World Trade Center attacks, according to a survey by the School of Social Work. In addition, today's New York City residents say they are doing at least as well as those interviewed in 1997 and 1999 in several areas like health, family well being and financial status. Still, the tragedy has led to signs of stress and trepidation, as noted in the report.

In 2002, 80 percent of survey respondents rated New York as a good or very good place to live, compared to 61 percent in 1997 and 70 percent in 1999. Adults reported being in as good health as anytime in the previous five years. They said their children's health is similar to what it was in prior years and reported similar levels of child behavior and mental health problems. They also reported greater financial assets, including liquid assets and home ownership. Reports of employment were the same as in previous survey years and reports of housing conditions remained unchanged. Furthermore, reports of satisfaction with the city and police protection improved.

"These reported improvements in indicators of well-being suggest that New York City families have been very resilient despite a downturn in the U.S. economy and the emotional scars of September 11," said Social Work Professor Julien Teitler, who co-authored the survey report. "The improvement in perceptions of the city as a place to live also confirm reports that the spirit of New Yorkers remains strong."

However, other findings from the survey show negative effects in several areas after September 11. Twelve percent of interviewed adults reported that either they or a family member lost work because of the World Trade Center attacks. In addition, 14 percent reported new health problems. Thirty-one percent of New York City adults reported sleeping poorly, 32 percent reported having problems concentrating at work and 38 percent said they preferred to stay at home and not go to work or other places as a result of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Other findings of the adults surveyed revealed a negative impact of the attacks on the city's children. Forty-two percent of adults with children (791 of the total sample) reported that they had cut down on their children's freedom to travel around the city. Eight percent of adults with children reported their child had a new health problem attributable to September 11, with 44 percent of these parents seeking help for their child.

In addition, 17 percent reported that after September 11 their child often wanted to stay at home and not go to school or other places without a parent. Seventeen percent said that their child has often felt afraid of being in crowded places. Twenty-seven percent reported that their child worried that the parent might go away and never come back.

Reports of ill effects of September 11 were especially prevalent among foreign-born adults in New York City, comprising of 40 percent of the adults surveyed. Immigrants were almost twice as likely as U.S.-born adults to report loss of their job or the job of a family member; they were 17 percent more likely to report problems concentrating at work, and were twice as likely to report that their child was afraid of crowded places.

Despite the improved perceptions of New York City, the survey's researchers said the findings of the survey indicate certain sectors of New York City residents may require special assistance in order to rebound from the September 11 tragedy -- needs that may be addressed with health and social service interventions.

The New York Social Indicators Survey (SIS) is conducted at Columbia University's School of Social Work by professors Irwin Garfinkel and Julien Teitler. The SIS is designed to assess the well being of New York City residents. The survey interviews 1,500 adult New Yorkers in all five boroughs by phone every two years.

The survey collects information about human, financial, and social assets; economic and social living conditions, and perceptions of the city and its services. The survey also measures the sources and extent of external support from government, family and friends, community and religious programs, and employers. SIS is conducted in four languages.

The 2002 data for the survey, officially titled the New York Social Indicators Survey, were collected from March through June.

Additional information about the Social Indicators Survey can be found at the Social Indicators Survey Center Web site. A full report on the 2002 SIS will be released later in the fall of 2002.

Published: Sep 12, 2002
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002


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