Increasing poverty demands action

Posted: May 22, 2012

An alarming new study shows more New Jersey residents than ever are struggling to provide for their families.

A record 885,000 people in the state lived below the poverty line in 2010, according to the study released Sunday by the Legal Services of New Jersey Poverty Research Institute.

The poverty rate increased from 9.4 percent in 2009 to 10.3 percent in 2010, based on the latest census figures available. Among the poor were 300,000 children, the state’s most vulnerable and neediest residents.

Unemployment, especially among young adults ages 18 to 24, coupled with the sluggish economic recovery following the longest recession since World War II, contributed to the rise in poverty.

“The report shows more and more people dropping out of the middle class to a place where they are now scrambling every day,” said Melville Miller, president of Legal Services of New Jersey.

The median household income fell for the second straight year — from $69,571 in 2009 to $67,681 in 2010. As a result, one-eighth of New Jersey households, about 380,000 altogether, had difficulty providing enough food for family members at some time between 2008 and 2010, the report found.

Surprisingly, the poverty rate in Camden, the poorest city in the state, improved, falling from 40.5 percent to 36.4 percent. Upticks, however, in nearby Cherry Hill and Mount Laurel suggest that Camden’s poor may have simply moved to those towns without escaping the grip of poverty.

Meanwhile, the percentage of Pennsylvanians living in poverty jumped from 11.6 in 2007 to 13.4 percent in 2010, according to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.

These increases in poverty cannot continue to be ignored by policymakers who in their zeal to cut government spending forget that there are consequences to depending on overwhelmed charities to fill the breach.

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