Child Poverty on the Rise in New Jersey [AUDIO]
t's a staggering statistic. More than 646,000 children in New Jersey lived in families earning too little to meet their needs in 2012.
That's a 19 percent increase since 2008, according to new U.S. Census data. That means an additional 118,000 children in the state lived in families earning less than $47,000 a year for a family of four.
Nearly one-third of all New Jersey children lived in low-income families last year.
"This is alarming. As our state digs out of the economic downturn, it's pretty clear that families that were already struggling are struggling even more to recover," said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey.
Child poverty went down in only two New Jersey counties, Salem and Warren where the number of children in poverty dropped 14 and 38 percent, respectively. Every other county saw an increase.
"Often people connect poverty with the urban areas, but we have plenty of rural areas that are struggling as well. So, there are pockets of poverty across the state," said Zalkind. "I think we need long- term and a short-term solutions. Most immediately, we have to look to support those programs that can help families with the basics, including the school breakfast program and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program which has been very important to struggling families."
Cumberland County saw the highest increase at 51 percent, followed by Hudson at 50 percent and Essex and Passaic at 46 percent. Hunterdon County had the lowest percentage of low-income children in 2012 at 10 percent.
There is some positive news. Both the number and percent of uninsured New Jersey children declined 30 percent across the state from 2008 to 2012 when about 103,000 lacked health coverage, compared to nearly 148,000 in 2008.
"New Jersey has continued to make progress in reaching children who lack health insurance and making sure they enroll in the state child health insurance program," said Zalkind. "I think it reflects how we can succeed when the state and community get together and reach out to families. We want to see this continue."
All but two counties, Morris and Somerset, saw a decline in uninsured children from 2008 to 2012. But, the one-year change between 2011 and 2012 showed nine counties experiencing an increase in uninsured children. These were Bergen, Camden, Cumberland, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean and Sussex.
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