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September 4, 2012

More than a third of New Jerseyans, or 34 percent, are not earning enough money to provide the basics for their families, according to a new study by the United Way of Northern New Jersey. Dubbed ALICE for "Asset Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed," the study looked at those who earned above the poverty level but still could not make ends meet in the Garden State. The report pegged the cost of living for survival in New Jersey at $58,500 for a family of four and $25,368 for a single adult. According to the report, there are 769,900 ALICE households in the state and an additional 312,762 households below the federal poverty level.

The study also showed that more than half of New Jerseyans were earning less than $20 an hour, and most were earning far less. That amounts to $41,600 per year. The federal poverty rate is $22,113 for a family and $11,344 for a single adult -- but the rate has not been updated since 1974, according to the study.

There were great variations by county in income, but no county had fewer than 18 percent ALICE households -- leading the study's author to note that these workers are those you see everyday, fixing your car, watching your children, or tending the sick. The increase in the number of struggling New Jerseyans (those living in poverty or ALICE households) has increased 6 percent since the 2007, the last time the study was conducted. But some counties saw a surge in Alice households, which the study attributes to the recession and the high cost of living. For example, while poverty levels are relatively low in Somerset and Bergen (4 percent and 8 percent respectively), they each have a 23 percent rate of ALICE households.

The counties with the lowest rate of those struggling were Hunterdon (27 percent), Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, and Union, all with 28 percent. The highest levels were in Cumberland (47 percent), Cape May (43 percent) Essex (43 percent), and Ocean (42 percent) counties.

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