Data from the U.S. Census Bureau confirms what many Garden State residents figured out a long time ago: The rich keep getting richer, and everybody else is struggling more and more to keep their heads above water.

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The figures show that from the beginning of the Great Recession in 2007 until 2013, New Jersey lost more than 100,000 middle-class and even lower middle-class households.

At the same time, a recent United Way report finds 1.2 million households in New Jersey are not able to afford the state's high cost of living, and must juggle money that's needed for housing, food, transportation, health care and child care.

According to Rutgers professor Joe Seneca, several factors are causing the Garden State's expanding income inequality gap.

"We're seeing a continuing hollowing out of middle-class jobs, combined with a growing demand for highly skilled, highly educated workers," he said. "The jobs in the middle and the lower middle have been under consistent pressure from this continual wave of technological innovation. Wage growth has been pretty stagnant throughout the United States and New Jersey over time, so that has made it difficult for moderate and low-income families to keep up with expenses."

Another factor is Jersey's soft jobs market.

"Yes, we've gained jobs back, but we still haven't reached the level of private sector employment that we had at the start of the Great Recession, that we had many, many years ago," Seneca said.

Karen Boroff, professor of business at Seton Hall University, said the impact of this income inequality in our state is very negative.

"If you are not able to have a job that you think can use all your talents, that is a de-motivator in the workplace," she said. "If you think that you could be better than you are, but you don't have the opportunity to enhance those skills, that's a deflator."

Boroff suggested part of the income inequality problem is because of CEOs who are being paid enormous amounts of money for poorly executing their jobs -- and well-connected politicians who get amazing benefits but don't deliver on what they promise.

"On the high end, there are people earning sizable wages that are not due them," Boroff said.

To counter the trend, both professors believe New Jersey needs more training and better education, which will lead to the creation of more jobs.