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Understanding Poverty

What do we mean by poverty? A broad spectrum of individuals and families in New Jersey struggle economically. They include people with very low incomes, who face dire deprivation and daily sacrifices, as well as many among the working poor, who often are ignored in official poverty statistics, but who nevertheless experience real and harmful economic challenges.

Based on census data released in September 2018, one of every 10 New Jersey residents lives in poverty. Among children, the rate is one child in every seven.

New Jersey Poverty Trends

While the state’s 10-percent poverty rate is lower than the national rate of 13.4 percent, the state number obscures the true scope of economic struggle in New Jersey because of our cost of living. Nationally, New Jersey ranks as one of the most expensive states to live in, and that puts extra weight on those struggling financially.

A report by the Anti-Poverty Network, based on census data released in September 2018, finds that a large number of low-income households spent so much money on rent that they had little left for other living expenses.

"Sixty-two percent of households earning less than $20,000 paid more than half of their income on rent last year," said Renee Koubiadis, APN executive director.

The same is true for roughly 58 percent of households earning up to $35,000, according to the report.

How poor are New Jersey municipalities?

Below are the number and percentages of residents living below the federal poverty line in the state’s major municipalities, ranked according to percentage of population*:

Municipality Below poverty line %
Camden 25,910 35.7%
Passaic 24,862 35%
Trenton 25,236 30.4%
Newark 76,159 27.8%
Lakewood 27,138 27.1%
Paterson 38,016 25.8%
Union City 14,500 20.7%
East Orange 11,288 17.7%
Elizabeth 20,474 16%
Bayonne 9,767 14.6%
Jersey City 38,751 14.5%
Clifton 11,462 13.4%
Hamilton (Mercer) 9,102 10.3%
Toms River 6,301 6.9%
Brick 5,092 6.8%
Franklin (Somerset) 4,483 6.8%
Cherry Hill 4,585 6.5%
Woodbridge 5,023 5.2%
Middletown 3,340 5.1%
Edison 4,691 4.6%
Gloucester Twp. 1,987 3.1%
Old Bridge 1,911 2.9%

*Data from 2017 American Community Survey One-Year Estimates

Using federal standards, a family of four is considered "in poverty" if they bring in less than $25,900 per year (2018 federal poverty threshold). An individual (one-person family) under age 65 would have to earn more than $13,064 to be above the poverty line, while, for an individual over age 65, the 2018 level is $12,043.

In New Jersey, more than 387,000 individuals lived in "deep poverty" in 2017, meaning their earnings didn't even add up to half the poverty line, the report said.

In more than 60 percent of New Jersey's poor families, at least one person had a job at some point during 2017.

The snapshot found that children in New Jersey are more likely to live in property than any other age group. In 2017, nearly 14 percent of Garden State children lived in poverty, compared to 18.4 percent nationally. The rate of poverty was even greater among African American and Latino children.

As long as poverty exists in New Jersey, Community Action Agencies are needed to provide a safety net and respond to community needs.

Impact of CSBG Network on Poverty

The Community Services Block Grants network tackles the complex issues of poverty by addressing the needs of individuals, families and communities within such domains as employment, education, health, housing and more.

Using programs and services tailored to local needs, Community Action Agencies develop human capacity and decrease dependency. The CSBG Network is working daily to help families become stable and achieve economic security.

Across the country, over 1,000 eligible entities receive Community Services Block Grant funding annually.

Nationally, CSBG network outcomes from federal fiscal year 2017 include:

  • 800,000 low-income households increased financial assets or skills.
  • 4 million families reduced or eliminated barriers to stability through access to childcare, food assistance, after-school programs, and more.
  • Agencies created or expanded 3.1 million community resources, including public facilities, local businesses, and other entities.
  • Total volunteer hours donated were valued at just over $1 billion.
  • 116,000 housing units were weatherized, preserved, or otherwise improved.
  • 339,000 people obtained safe, affordable housing.
  • 167,000 people obtained a job.

Calculating eligibility for CSBG services

Eligibility for CSBG services is calculated at 125 percent of the federal poverty level. This chart shows income limits by size of household calculated for 2020.

125% of the Federal Poverty Level Guidelines

Family Size Annual Income Monthly Income Weekly Income
1 $15,950 $1,329 $307
2 $21,550 $1,796 $414
3 $27,150 $2,263 $522
4 $32,750 $2,729 $630
5 $38,350 $3,196 $738
6 $43,950 $3,663 $845
7 $49,550 $4,129 $953
8 $55,150 $4,596 $1,061
Each Add'l $5,600 $467 $108