By Briana Vannozzi
More children are living in poverty now than during the Great Recession. It’s a national trend and it’s mirrored right here at home.
“Right now 333,000 children in New Jersey are living in poverty,” said Advocates for Children of New Jersey Executive Director Cecilia Zalkind.
Zalkind explains the latest data out today from the 2015 KIDS COUNT report. New Jersey ranked eighth overall in the nation for the second year in a row, but it finds a 13 percent increase — or 17 percent of all kids in the Garden State live in poverty.
“The most dramatic is that we’re losing ground in economic well-being. So in areas related to child poverty which has increased, families without secure year-round employment — children living in communities with high concentrations of poverty — all of those indicators have gotten worse,” Zalkind said.
The report ranks states based on four categories using the latest federal Census Bureau data. New Jersey slipped in economic well-being from 16th last year down to 26th this year.
“Looking at poverty data is critical to long-term success. You’re raising children who are more likely to finish school, go on to college or vocation,” Zalkind said.
“I see parents coming in with stories like you can’t believe,” said Egenolf Early Childhood Center Executive Director Lorraine Cooke.
Cooke sees it firsthand running an early childcare and education center in Elizabeth.
“There are families that live in one-bedroom homes, one-bedroom apartments with two, three, four children living in the same bedroom with them. We have parents that are constantly moving from apartment to apartment and sometimes even out of school district to school district because they just can’t find affordable housing,” she said.
New Jersey also slipped from 10th down to 12th in the category of family and community.
“There’s been an increase in children living in single parent headed households and an increase in children living in communities with high concentrations of poverty,” Zalkind said.
But the state improved in our health ranking up from 19 to six.
“Health was probably our most positive category overall. More children with health insurance, fewer babies born with lower birth weight, the child and infant mortality death rate is down,” Zalkind said.
And Zalkind says that’s a testament to investments made by the state to improve child health insurance. We also held tight to our number two ranking in the nation for education, behind only Massachusetts.
“There’s more always that can be done in the area of infants and toddlers. It’s very expensive childcare programs for working families,” said Annie E. Casey Foundation Associate Director of Policy Reform and Advocacy Laura Speer.
The whole purpose for compiling reports like this is to paint a picture of the situation here in the state and across the nation and advocates say it may have played a role in bringing back policies like the earned income tax credit for low income families.