A large portion of New Jersey’s population is still facing economic hardship, despite
the supposed distance of the Great Recession. This lived reality was confirmed today by new Census data from The American Community Survey. The data release includes the official poverty rate for the state (11.1%), which shows no statistically significant drop in poverty last year.
“Unfortunately, stubbornly high poverty rates are not the only disheartening news,” according to Serena Rice, Executive Director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, “because these official rates don’t show the full scope of economic hardship in New Jersey. The federal calculations use very low income thresholds - only about $24,000 for a family of four in 2014 - meaning that families with slightly higher incomes are not counted by the official measure, even though New Jersey’s cost of living is at least two or three times higher. True poverty can be more accurately measured by doubling the income used to calculate poverty - so for the new 2014 Census data, this means counting as ‘poor’ everyone whose income falls below 200% of the federal poverty thresholds (about $48,000 for a family of 4). The new data shows that about 1 in 4 (24.9%) of New Jersey residents have to rely on incomes below this minimal threshold.”
Monique Hickson, a resident of an affordable housing building in Somerset County, understands the economic hardships of living above the federal poverty line and still struggling to make ends meet. Monique and her husband, parents of three, both work full-time and earn a combined income of about $70,000 a year but they are still “check to check,” she says.
“If there’s an incident, we may be facing homelessness. There’s no back-up system,” Hickson said. “It’s almost impossible to have any kind of quality of life. It’s more about surviving.”
Last month, APN used ACS data from 2011-2013 to calculate the numbers of people from each county living in true poverty, as a benchmark for the 2015 Poverty Solutions Pledge. This pledge campaign asks all candidates for Assembly to recognize the reality of true poverty in their district and to work with APN to ensure economic opportunity for all their constituents. “The data shows that every district in the state includes significant numbers of people who are really struggling just to pay their bills every month,” Rice explained. “New Jersey’s poverty problem is much bigger than the poverty rate, and we all need to work together to make this state a place where everyone can thrive.”
To contact Serena for comment please call her directly at 908-458-3940.