ALMOST CRIMINAL Worst financial crisis in a lifetime grips New Jersey families
A 52-year low, more families in New Jersey living in poverty.
While the economic situation across the United States has brightened, poverty in New Jersey, the Garden State, continues unabated. Those out of work and living below minimum standards there has reached a 52-year high.
There's no solution upon the horizon. The report warns that Census figures for 2012, to be released later this month may even reveal higher unemployment and poverty rates for New Jersey.
Upon the release of the annual survey by Legal Services of New Jersey, Melville D. Miller Jr., the president of LSNJ, declared that this "is not just a one-year or five-year or 10-year variation." The group gives free legal help to low-income residents in civil cases. "This is the worst that it's been since the 1960 Census."
There's no solution upon the horizon. The report warns that Census figures for 2012, to be released later this month may be even higher. The statistics are expected to show some of the impact from Hurricane Sandy, which gobbled up a big chunk of New Jersey's economy and destroyed a large amount of affordable housing.
New Jersey, in all actuality one of the wealthiest states in the nation, reflects a national trend. The federal poverty rate was the largest it had been in 18 years, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Poverty rates in each of New Jersey's 21 counties, according to the report:
- Atlantic 32.4
- Bergen 18.4
- Burlington 17.5
- Camden 27.7
- Cape May 25.9
- Cumberland 37
- Essex 35.7
- Gloucester 18.5
- Hudson 35.9
- Hunterdon 10.9
- Mercer 22.7
- Middlesex 21.6
- Monmouth 18.4
- Morris 14.2
- Ocean 27.4
- Passaic 37.1
- Salem 30.8
- Somerset 12.7
- Sussex 15.2
- Union 27
- Warren 19
"The Great Recession was the worst major economic event since the early '30s," Miller said. "It's taken longer for the U.S. to come out of it."
The seventh such report issued by Legal Services designates poverty in New Jersey as a family of three making less than $37,060, twice the federal poverty rate as the state's cost of living is among the highest in the nation.
The report found:
- A record high of more than 630,000 children - 31.2 percent - lived in a household defined as poor.
- The percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds living in poverty rose from 26.9 in 2007 to 32.8 in 2011.
- Of families headed by single mothers, 22 percent were poor compared to 3.6 percent of families headed by a married couple.
- African-Americans and Hispanics had poverty rates at least three times higher than whites.
- Boosted by the consistency of Social Security payments, the percentage of elderly who were poor dropped from 26.7 in 2007 to 26.2 in 2011.
- Six counties - Passaic, Cumberland, Hudson, Essex, Atlantic and Salem - had more than 30 percent of their population living in poverty in 2011.
- Among cities, nearly 65 percent of Camden residents lived in poverty, and 79 percent of children lived in poor households. Poverty topped 50 percent in Passaic, Lakewood, Paterson, Trenton and Newark.
New Jersey's high unemployment rate dipped slightly in July to 8.6 percent, higher than the national rate of 7.3 percent, and nearly double the state's rate of 4.6 at the start of the recession.
"Families continue to struggle," Cecilia Zalkind, president of Advocates for Children of New Jersey says. "Improvements in the economic downturn have not yet reached the low-income family."
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