Report Finds Poverty in NJ Declining. But Is It Really?
A new U.S. Census Bureau report finds many states, including New Jersey, saw a decrease in poverty rates between 2014 and 2015.
The data indicates 972,903 New Jersey residents were living below the poverty line in 2014, which was 11.1 percent of the population, but last year the number dropped slightly, to 946,114, or 10.8 percent of the population.
Not everyone is cheering the report, however.
De Miller, president of Legal Services of New Jersey, believes while the trend that poverty is decreasing is positive, the methodology used in the report is misleading.
“It’s not portraying a true picture of deprivation, and therefore poverty in New Jersey,” he said.
The Census Bureau report sets a baseline for poverty for a family of four at a household income of $24,250, which can be unrealistic in high-cost New Jersey.
“Anybody who stops and thinks a minute about their own budgets and what they spend knows how terribly impossible that is,” he said.
Miller said Legal Services of New Jersey’s Poverty Research Institute has done several studies about the real cost of living in New Jersey.
He explained those studies found a family of four would need at least $64,000 annually to not be facing deprivation in some major areas of living, “which include housing and food and child care for work an healthcare.”
Miller added if this is the case, “we’re then talking about a huge portion of New Jersey’s population, really around 30 percent of New Jersey’s population. It’s absolutely staggering.”
He noted while the report indicates the poverty rate in Jersey moved down from 11.1 to 10.8 percent last year, it does not include the fact that “in 2007, right before the Great Recession, we had a poverty rate of 8.6 percent.”
He suggested what the state needs to do to change this situation.
“I think it’s a conversation we need to be having,” he said. “It’s not the fault of a president, a governor, or any state administration. The causes are many, but the responsibility to address it is really a responsibility that falls on all of us.”
Miller added for many Garden State residents, poverty is an unfortunate reality they face every day.
“If you walk with your eyes open through the cities of New Jersey, you can’t mistake what’s going on,” he said.
“They may not put food on the table one meal a week or two meals a week, or they may be cutting corners somewhere else or they may be three or four months behind in the rent. That’s what’s going on,” he said.
The Census Bureau report finds between 2014 and 2015:
— Poverty rates declined in 23 states, and no state saw a poverty rate increase.
— Poverty rates in 2015 ranged from a low of 8.2 percent in New Hampshire to a high of 22.0 percent in Mississippi.
— Some of the highest poverty rates were found in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and New Mexico.
—Some of the lowest poverty rates were found in Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Vermont and New Jersey.