New Jersey records one of nation’s biggest spikes in poverty
TRENTON – Poverty increased more in New Jersey than nearly all other states between 2019 and 2021, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, which also showed the state’s median income dropped by 1.7% in that time.
The poverty rate in New Jersey went up by 1.1 percentage points to 10.2% in 2021, according to estimates from the bureau’s American Community Survey. Only Hawaii and Maryland registered bigger increases since 2019. (The 2020 data was skipped, as the pandemic interfered with survey responses.)
The poverty rate in New Jersey was roughly 10% among native-born American citizens, 9% among naturalized citizens and 21% among foreign-born noncitizens.
There were some sharp differences when comparing racial and ethnic groups, with poverty rates of around 18% among Hispanic residents, 16% among Black residents, 14% among multiracial residents, 7% among white residents and 6% among Asian residents.
Most in six years
In all, the estimated number of New Jersyans in poverty jumped more than 132,000 in those two years, topping 930,000 for the first time since 2015.
Those included almost 94,000 children under age 6, for a poverty rate among the state’s youngest kids of 15.2%. Among all youth under age 17, the poverty rate was 14.2%, up nearly 2 percentage points in two years.
New tax credit
On Tuesday, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill into law that will enable residents to receive a new child tax credit in 2023, when they file their 2022 tax returns, rather than a year later. The credit applies for kids under age 6 in families with incomes under $80,000, with the largest benefits, $500 per child, for families with incomes under $30,000.
“Making New Jersey more affordable for our families has been one of my highest priorities since day one,” Murphy said. “Tax relief is critically important and this amendment will put money into the pockets of families as early as next year.”
“The CTC is one of the most effective and direct solutions available for reducing poverty, especially among children,” said Dena Mottola Jaborska, executive director of NJ Citizen Action.
Income down, inequality up
Median household income in New Jersey declined by 1.7% between 2019 and 2021, according to the Census Bureau’s latest estimates.
The $89,296 media income in 2021 remained the fourth-highest in the country, lower only than the medians in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Massachusetts. But New Jersey was one of 13 states, plus Washington, D.C., with a median income drop that was statistically significant.
Median income for the New York metropolitan area, which includes northern and central New Jersey, fell by 4.2% to $84,409. The median for the Philadelphia metro area, which includes much of South Jersey, rose 1.3% to $80,007.
Income inequality in New Jersey increased between 2019 and 2021, according to the Census Bureau analysis.
A separate measurement
Separate data issued by the Census Bureau last month showed New Jersey with a lower poverty rate: 7.4% as the official rate for a three-year average covering 2019 to 2021, or 8.1% through a supplemental poverty measure that also considers things such as food assistance, stimulus and tax credits.
New Jersey was one of three states, along with California and Maryland, where the supplemental poverty rate was higher than the official rate.
The Census Bureau says there are many reasons why a state’s supplemental rate could be higher, such as geographic adjustments for housing costs, different mixes of housing tenure and higher non-discretionary expenses, such as taxes or medical expenses.
Last month’s numbers reflect the Current Population Survey. The Census Bureau says the CPS is better for national data but that the ACS is better for data at the state and other levels.
Residents with health insurance
The CPS data release also showed that New Jersey was among 28 states where the share of people without health insurance went down, from 7.9% in 2019 to 7.2% in 2021.
The share of residents with employer-based health coverage dropped from 62% in 2019 to 61.2% in 2021. The share with Medicaid coverage grew from 16.5% to 18.4%, while Medicare coverage was little changed at 17.5%. The share who directly purchased coverage grew from 11.8% to 12.6%.
Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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