Incomes Rose in NJ Last Year but Poverty Remains High

Increasing Minimum Wage to $15/Hour Would Help Low Income New Jerseyans Afford Housing, Other Necessities and Escape Poverty

On September 13, 2018, NJSpotlight reported that “Incomes rose in NJ last year, but significant number of residents remain in poverty.”

Recent census data reported that in 2017, New Jerseys residents saw a rise in wages leaving fewer New Jerseyans considered poor. But the census data also showed that women still earn less than men earn.

“However, this first release of data from the 2017 American Community Survey shows that women continue to earn less than men and that as many as 1.3 million New Jerseyans are considered poor, given the state’s high cost of living. Officially, the ACS estimates that 10 percent of the state’s population was living in poverty last year, meaning they earned $24,858 for a family of four.”

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC)’s 2018 Out of Reach Report, in order to afford a two bedroom apartment in New Jersey, a household must earn an annual salary of $58,603. This annual housing wage in NJ is more than twice what the 10% of the state population’s living in poverty in the state, according to the ACS earns.

Anti-poverty advocates are concerned about a poverty rate in New Jersey, that although it is declining, still remains too high. “Certainly, any decline in the federal poverty rate is a positive development, but it cannot obscure the fact that poverty in our state last year still remains significantly higher than at the beginning of the recession 10 years ago, when it stood at 8.5 percent,” said Melville D. Miller Jr., president of Legal Services of New Jersey. “That’s deeply disturbing: data that heralds terrible daily human suffering in our state, with very little improvement.”

NJSpotlight reports that “The Supplemental Poverty Measure, which was released separately, puts the percentage of Jerseyans living in poverty at a higher 15.1 percent of the population. That calculation, averaged over the years 2015 through 2017, also accounts for safety-net benefits a low-income family receives, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as food stamps, and for the cost of housing. Because New Jersey is a high-cost state, its supplemental poverty measure tends to be higher than the official measure.”

The official poverty rate in the U.S. was 13.4% in 2017. “However, using the three-year averaged supplemental measure, New Jersey’s poverty rate was worse, 1 percent higher than the national rate.”

“In short, there are really more than 2.6 million New Jerseyans who daily face deprivation in at least one of the areas essential to a decent life,” Miller said. “That’s nearly a third of our residents, including more than a half million children, living day by day without sufficient food, health coverage, decent housing, adequate transportation and other basics so many of us take for granted.”

One way to help thee 2.6 million New Jerseyan is to raise the hourly minimum wage from $8.60/hour to $15/hour. An increased minimum wage would help the very low income households afford food, health care, housing, transportation and the other basic necessities that others take for granted.

NJSpotlight Article

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