NJ Poverty Rate Hits 10 percent – Highest Level Since 1993-94

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EDISON – According to new data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau, New Jersey’s poverty rate reached 10 percent in 2009-10, the highest it has been since 1993-94.

“It is clear from today’s poverty data that the recession has not ended for many, and it continues to have a devastating effect for many children, families and individual adults,” said Melville D. Miller, president of Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ).

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According to the Census Bureau estimate, 32,266 additional New Jerseyans fell into poverty in the first calendar year after the official end of the recession.

“Most disturbing,” he added, “is that the rate of poverty continues to increase, with the rate of increase now near a record high, at an astonishing 8 percent.”

“Statewide poverty increased from 9.3 percent in 2008-09 to 10.0 percent in 2009-10,” according to Anjali Srivastava, co-director of the LSNJ Poverty Research Institute. “This continues a trend of increasing poverty since 2004-05.”

The federal poverty threshold, which varies by the number and ages of household members, was $22,113 for a two-adult, two-child household in 2010.

“The number of the most desperately poor,” noted Srivastava, “those with incomes below half the poverty level, increased from an estimated 377,926 (4.4 percent of the population) in 2009-10 to 436,419 (5 percent) in 2009-10. Looking at New Jerseyans in true poverty, those living with incomes below the real cost of living,” she continued, “the numbers increased from 2,089,569 (24.3 percent) to 2,143,699 (24.8 percent).”

According to LSNJ PRI co-director Allan Lichtenstein, “Unemployment was at 9.7 percent in New Jersey during March 2010, the month the poverty information was collected, compared to 8.4 percent in March 2009. The percentage of unemployed has remained above 9 percent for the past 27 months, with the July 2011 rate at 9.5 percent.”

“Today’s data also show that the percentage of New Jerseyans who lacked health insurance, which remains high, continues to be higher among those in poverty than the general population,” according to Shivi Prasad, senior researcher and policy analyst at LSNJ PRI. “In 2009-2010, 278,923 low-income people – 32.10 percent of the population group – were uninsured, compared to 15.6 percent (1,347,965) among the entire population.”

“Combined with data on food security released by the Department of Agriculture earlier this month, today’s data show that New Jersey’s residents made vulnerable to poverty’s harms need protection,” said Miller. “Food insecurity, defined by the USDA as occurring when, at some point during a year’s time, a household did not have enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle for all family members, was at 12.1 percent in New Jersey for years 2008-2010; this figure represents a continued increase in three-year averages since the 7.7 percent rate in 2004-06. This is more evidence of the need for sustained government funding for anti-poverty programs.”

Legal Services of New Jersey, located in Edison, is the coordinating office for the state’s system of Legal Services programs, which provide essential legal aid in civil matters to low-income people in all twenty-one counties in New Jersey. To help reduce the legal needs of those in poverty, the Poverty Research Institute conducts systemic research on the incidence, effects and other aspects of poverty in the state, and the relationships among poverty, work and public policy—and makes its findings available to the public. LSNJ’s Poverty Research Institute provides a detailed report on poverty and state responses every year in its Poverty Benchmarks report series. This and other reports are available on the web at http://www.lsnj.org/PRI.aspx.


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