Legal Services of NJ established NJPRI in 1997. The Poverty Benchmarks is an ongoing data collection effort that aims to increase understanding of poverty in New Jersey as a foundation for more effective public response to the reality of poverty and its consequences.
With continued high unemployment – as of March 2012, the unemployed numbered 412,700 – the report anticipates that poverty is likely to grow this year.
Melville D. Miller Jr., president of Legal Services, summarized the impact by saying:
“The especially disturbing thing is now a couple of years after the great recession, poverty has increased. Our calculations suggest that this is really now at the highest level.”
Among the key facts were:
The report defines being poor as making less than $36,620 for a family of three — twice the federal poverty rate because New Jersey has such a high cost of living.
Families headed by single mothers, as well as children and young adults have especially struggled, the report found.
The number of 18- to 24-year-olds who lived in a household defined as poor in 2010 has increased 39.1 percent since 2006.
The unemployment rate for 20- to 24-year-olds rose from 8.8 percent in 2008 to 14.8 percent in 2011. According to figures released last week, New Jersey’s total unemployment rate is 9.1 percent, compared with the national average of 8.1 percent.
The report also said 619,003 children are considered poor.
In five counties — Essex, Hudson, Passaic, Atlantic and Cumberland — more than 30 percent of residents are defined as poor.
Among towns with more than 20,000 people, Camden had the highest percentage of poor residents in 2010, at 62.9 percent. More than half of the residents of Newark, New Brunswick, Passaic, Atlantic City, Bridgeton, Lakewood, Paterson and Trenton were considered poor.