Real cost of living is a burden on one in five New Jerseyans

Poverty Research Institute

Yesterday our friends at Legal Services of New Jersey’s Poverty Research Institute released “The Real Cost of Living in 2008: The Self-Sufficiency Standard for New Jersey.” According to the report one in five New Jerseyans — 1.68 million adults and children — cannot afford to live without some kind of public assistance. In addition, the report provides a detailed analysis of the cost of living in New Jersey for working families based on the true cost of basic household expenses including housing, child care, health care, and food. It also provides a comparison of the Real Cost of Living to other benchmarks of income including the federal poverty level, welfare income, and minimum wage income. Several policy implications flow from the report’s themes and the report includes information on key action the state could take to help New Jersey families meet their basic needs given the high cost of living.

To read the full report click here.

To view a printable version click here.

To view data by county click here.

Among the reports findings were:

Nowhere in New Jersey can anyone live on the state’s $7.15-an-hour minimum wage. The lowest hourly wage at which a single person can be self-sufficient in New Jersey is $8.58, in Camden County. The wage would provide an annual income of $18,115 with $8,844 a year going for low-quality housing at $737 a month.

An adult with a preschool child needs at least $35,728 to be self-sufficient in deep South Jersey, but at least $47,240 to live in Somerset and Morris counties and at least $39,299 in Warren and Sussex counties. The federal poverty level for a parent and child is $14,000.

In Hunterdon County, the state’s wealthiest county, two adults with a preschool child and a school-age child, need an annual income of $72,200 to be self-sufficient, $52,000 more than the federal poverty level of $21,200. Each parent would have to earn more than $17 an hour.

In Middlesex County, a single parent with a preschool child and a school-age child needs $61,149 a year to be self-sufficient, $43,549 more than the federal poverty level of $17,600. The parent would need an hourly wage of about $29.

In Essex County, two adults with a preschool child and infant need $53,722 to be self-sufficient, $32,522 above the $21,200 federal poverty level. Each parent would have to earn about $13 an hour.

3 commentscomments closed

  1. I’ve read a number of the Self-Sufficiency Standard studies over the past 5 or so years, and respect their methodology for determining the cost of living for a lifestyle most of us would call “working poor” — that is, no frills: no meals out, no entertainment, no savings, no gifts, no tuition, no debt repayment, a 40th percentile rental (which generally puts one somewhat off the beaten path and probably not in the best of school districts).

    But I find their proposed solutions to the problem to be insufficient.

    I propose that those who care about this subject — which should be at least 60% of us — educate themselves about the causes of the low wages we see around us; the cause of the sprawl that eats up time, money and fuel and creates pollution; the cause of the decay in the downtowns of many of our cities. All these problems can be traced to a single cause, and all can be placed on the road to a solution that will create a better society and community for all of us.

    I’m not proposing something new or original, though most people will not have heard of it. Rather, I am suggesting that we acquaint ourselves with the observations and proposals most often associated with the name of Henry George, who saw, 130 years ago, figured out and laid out the cause of the poverty he saw in our cities, despite awesome technological progress that could have been sufficient to abolish all poverty.

    In “Progress & Poverty,” George laid out the relationship between the two, and told us how to fix the problem, through a simple tax reform. The reform is a great example of “think globally, act locally” — something that individual towns and cities and states can implement at their own speed. The smart ones will implement it soon and rapidly; the duller ones more slowly.

    You can lean more about these ideas at http://www.wealthandwant.com/ (and while you’re there, take a look at the collected information on the cost of living in America’s least expensive counties, drawn from the Self Sufficiency Standard studies), at http://www.answersanwers.com, and http://lvtfan.typepad.com/ “LVTfan” is “land value taxation” fan — the only tax I can think of that deserves a fan club!

  2. I’ve read a number of the Self-Sufficiency Standard studies over the past 5 or so years, and respect their methodology for determining the cost of living for a lifestyle most of us would call “working poor” — that is, no frills: no meals out, no entertainment, no savings, no gifts, no tuition, no debt repayment, a 40th percentile rental (which generally puts one somewhat off the beaten path and probably not in the best of school districts).

    But I find their proposed solutions to the problem to be insufficient.

    I propose that those who care about this subject — which should be at least 60% of us — educate themselves about the causes of the low wages we see around us; the cause of the sprawl that eats up time, money and fuel and creates pollution; the cause of the decay in the downtowns of many of our cities. All these problems can be traced to a single cause, and all can be placed on the road to a solution that will create a better society and community for all of us.

    I’m not proposing something new or original, though most people will not have heard of it. Rather, I am suggesting that we acquaint ourselves with the observations and proposals most often associated with the name of Henry George, who saw, 130 years ago, figured out and laid out the cause of the poverty he saw in our cities, despite awesome technological progress that could have been sufficient to abolish all poverty.

    In “Progress & Poverty,” George laid out the relationship between the two, and told us how to fix the problem, through a simple tax reform. The reform is a great example of “think globally, act locally” — something that individual towns and cities and states can implement at their own speed. The smart ones will implement it soon and rapidly; the duller ones more slowly.

    You can lean more about these ideas at http://www.wealthandwant.com/ (and while you’re there, take a look at the collected information on the cost of living in America’s least expensive counties, drawn from the Self Sufficiency Standard studies), at http://www.answersanwers.com, and http://lvtfan.typepad.com/ “LVTfan” is “land value taxation” fan — the only tax I can think of that deserves a fan club!