IDNYC: It Pays To Be A New Yorker


The IDNYC program, implemented in 2015, gives New York City residents (aged 14+) a one-stop shop to the city’s services and benefits. In its first year, 835,364 enrolled (or 11.93% of the city’s population). It represents “the largest municipal identification card program in the country.”

For the most vulnerable New Yorkers (the homeless, elderly, immigrants, kids, those with low-incomes, the formerly incarcerated, those with a physical or intellectual disability) IDNYC offers them a government-issued photo ID card and a sense of belonging. These are the populations that have the most difficulty with navigating government identification processes and who are often stigmatized when they pursue documentation.

The ID’s that are issued serve as way of verifying eligibility for city programs and services, accessing buildings, and are accepted as forms of identification by the NYPD. Enrollment centers are located throughout NYC’s borough neighborhoods. Home visits for enrollment purposes can be arranged for veterans and the disabled.

A little known perk of this card is free membership to more than 40 cultural institutions so those in affluent NYC communities also benefit from the card. WNYC reports that “at the end of 2015, people living in the 10025 ZIP code (Upper West Side) redeemed 7,949 cultural memberships — the highest amount — even though only 7,849 ID cards were issued (ID holders can get memberships at multiple institutions).”

This was what was intended, as the card is designed to benefit everyone. As of August 2016, one in ten New Yorkers has an IDNYC; more than half of cardholders use IDNYC as primary form of identification.

A recent evaluation of the card program by Westat and Metis Associates finds positive outcomes from implementation of the program. Thirty-nine focus groups, dozens of interviews with community leaders and program partners, and survey responses from over 77,000 cardholders yielded the following insights:

  • Twenty-five percent of survey respondents indicated that IDNYC is their only form of U.S. photo identification (79% of these respondents self-reported as immigrants)
  • Respondents indicated IDNYC useful with police interactions; it can be offered to NYPD if they request ID
  • Respondents indicate helpfulness of IDNYC in accessing City services (39% reported that the card had greatly helped them receive the services, and an additional 33% indicated that it had somewhat helped them)

Mayor de Blasio offered this about the program:

“In a City that is strengthened by its diversity and celebrated for its inclusiveness, too many New Yorkers were living in the shadows. With IDNYC, my team and I set out to right that wrong and to help all our people lead lives full of respect and recognition.”