Number of Children Living in Poverty Climbs Sharply in NJ, Rising in All But 3 Counties

About one-third of state’s kids are in low-income families, an increase of 20 percent since 2008

The number of children living in poverty continues to rise in New Jersey, as measured by the newest edition of the Kids Count report for the state, which is being released today by Advocates for Children of New Jersey.

Almost one-third of all New Jersey children — 646,000 — were considered low-income, which is defined as living in a family with an income at twice the federal poverty limit, in 2012, the latest New Jersey Kids Count shows.

That’s a big increase from 2008, when some 310,000 children, or 15 percent of all New Jersey children, were living at the poverty level, with almost half of those considered very poor, in families with incomes of less than half the poverty limit. That year, the poverty level for a family of four was $23,050.

“While the rankings shift every year, we see certain trends across many counties, including increasing child poverty, fewer child care options for working parents and high housing costs,” said Cecilia Zalkind, ACNJ’s executive director. “These statistics should be used to inform local, county and state leaders, as well as community organizations, in their efforts to improve the well-being of all New Jersey children.”

The report shows that child poverty continued to rise from 2008 to 2012 in all but three counties — Morris, Salem and Warren. Warren and Salem saw substantial declines, at 46 and 22 percent, respectively, while Morris had a modest 1-percent decrease. In the other counties, increases in the number of children living in families earning too little to meet their children’s needs ranged from a low of 8 percent in Monmouth County to a high of 246 percent in Somerset County.

Statewide, the number of children living in poverty jumped 22 percent during this time.

The poverty data, because it dates to 2012, may show the lingering effects of the Great Recession, and next year’s report may have better news.

Every county but Cape May showed declines in unemployment, with many showing substantial drops in joblessness – as much as 30 percent — from 2009 to 2013. Still, it is not clear whether this will affect the child poverty rate. Some labor experts say the decline in unemployment is due, at least in part, to people leaving the labor force all together.

In addition to poverty and financial data, Kids Count provides statistics for the state and for each of the counties in 13 areas, including health, child care and education. It also combines all the data to rank each county.

This year, for the second year in a row, Hunterdon County took the top spot. Cumberland County ranked last. The rankings often closely mirror wealth, and that was the case for the top and bottom spots: Hunterdon had the highest 2012 median income for families with children, at $132,000, while Cumberland had the lowest — $51,113.

Some of the financial data for the state and counties is given above. Here’s a link to the full state report and all the county data.

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