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Poverty Spreading To New Jersey’s Suburbs [AUDIO]

More children are living in poverty in every corner of the Garden State, including the wealthiest counties.

suburban NJ home
Flickr User Wootang01

That disturbing fact is found in the “Kids Count 2013″ report released by Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ).

“Poverty is growing,” says Cecilia Zalkind, ACNJ executive director. “Not just in the urban areas, but in the rural areas and it’s spreading to the suburbs. It’s a critical issue for our state. If we’re talking about children and meeting the needs of children this creates an incredible struggle for kids.”

Rising poverty persists in all but two counties – Atlantic and Cumberland. Increases in the percentage of children living in poor families ranged from a low of 4 percent in Gloucester County to a high of 129 percent in Somerset County from 2007 to 2011.

“Unemployment is on the rise across the state (and) median family income on average has dropped,” explains Zalkind. “Child poverty has increased across the state. There’s only one county in which child poverty has dropped.”

Cumberland County saw a decline in the percent of children in poverty, dropping to 26 in 2011. Despite this decline, Cumberland still had the highest percent of children living in poverty.

In addition, unemployment rates rose in every county in the state from 2008 to 2012. Warren had the smallest increase at 23 percent, while Atlantic County had the highest jump at 59 percent.

“As children and families continue to struggle, it is more important than ever to make sound decisions to improve children’s lives and invest in their futures,” says Zalkind. “The Kids Count data should be used to inform our response to children’s needs and guide investments of our limited state resources.”

The report compares New Jersey’s 21 counties on 13 measures of child well-being, including child poverty, health, safety and education. Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, Bergen and Middlesex were the top five ranking counties, while Salem, Cumberland, Atlantic, Cape May and Passaic were the five lowest.

Hunterdon reclaimed the 1st place spot after being edged out by Morris last year. Salem dropped from 18th last year to last in the state this year. All but one of the bottom five ranking counties (Passaic) are located in South Jersey.

To help counties use the data to address the needs of children, Advocates for Children is hosting Kids Count Regional Forums across the state, bringing together county, city and state leaders with the people in the community who work with children and families.

“These forums are designed to foster discussions about the data that result in concrete action at the state, county and local levels,” explains Zalkind. “When we use data to drive critical decisions about responding to the needs of children, everyone benefits — children, families, our communities and our state.”

To view the county profiles, the pocket guide and the state Kids Count report and for a schedule of Kids Count forums, go to the ACNJ website.

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