Chronic Underemployment, High Poverty

A draft was made public last week of a report, the first of its kind, detailing living conditions facing East End youth. It found high rates of poverty and chronic underemployment, among other challenges.

Though the beauty and rural character of the area make it a popular destination for tourists, second-home owners, and retirees, it can be a difficult place for young people — priced out of housing and unable to find year-round jobs — to gain an economic toehold.

“People don’t think of this area as a place where poverty is a big issue,” said Nancy Lynott, who directs the Southampton Youth Bureau and helped oversee the project. “But we’re really not any better off than a lot of communities in western Suffolk.”

The report found that half of Bridgehampton School students ages 14 to 19 qualified for free or reduced-price lunches, along with 25 percent of Southampton students, 24 percent of East Hampton-based students, and 24 percent of Springs students attending East Hampton High School. According to current Department of Agriculture income eligibility guidelines, households of four making below $24,000 a year qualify for free lunches.

Seventy-six percent of teens ages 16 to 19 are unemployed, according to the report. Though the South Fork in particular offers much in the way of seasonal and part-time work, there are few opportunities for year-round employment. Further, recent high school graduates report difficulty securing career-track jobs that pay a living wage.

“We all really struggle with a lack of services. There’s not anywhere near enough,” said Ms. Lynott, citing long waiting lists at available and difficult-to-access mental health clinics. “The East End communities also have a high percentage of people who are uninsured, yet another barrier to accessing services.”

Seven East End hamlets were included within the top 15 communities on Long Island whose residents lack health insurance coverage.

Public transportation was cited as an additional hurdle for local youth. Only one bus line runs from Orient Point to East Hampton. Its service is unreliable, it said, and the ride from Orient can stretch over three hours.

The report, prepared by the Suffolk County Youth Board in Hauppauge, covered all five East End towns: East Hampton, Southampton, Southold, Riverhead, and Shelter Island. Representatives from the offices of County Legislators Jay Schneiderman and Al Krupski also participated.

It included a sample of 2,000 young people, with data last collected in 2011. According to 2010 U.S. Census figures, nearly 30,000 people under the age of 21 call the East End home. About 4,500 of them live in East Hampton.

The report also showed an overall increase in the number of senior citizens and second-home owners on the East End, a decrease in the number of school-age children, an increase in the Latino population, a decrease in childcare subsidies, an increase in food stamp applications, and an increase in domestic violence incidents.

The schools will distribute follow-up surveys to students in December.