1 in 3 children in NJ are being raised by struggling low-income families
A new Kids Count report finds mixed results when it comes to the well being of children in the Garden State.
While the state has made progress in improving child nutrition and reducing child poverty, a third of all children in the state are considered low-income.
A low-income family of four earns $46,000, according to the report.
“That certainly presents challenges to paying rent, especially because we have one of the highest housing costs in the country, to putting food on the table, the kinds of things that families take for granted,” said Cel Zalkind, the executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey. “Looking at how do we help to lift children and families out of poverty needs to be a priority for our state.”
She noted on the positive side “we’ve continued to see a drop in the number of uninsured children, in fact that decreased by 25 percent from 2010 to 2014. And only about 2 percent of low income kids are now without health insurance. … It’s very encouraging that the state has made such an effort to enroll eligible children in health insurance, and that families have responded.”
The report also compares the state’s 21 counties on 13 measures of child well-being.
The wealthier counties of Morris and Hunterdon top the list.
“And at the bottom are Atlantic and Cumberland counties. They have a much higher child-poverty rate, and a family median income that’s quite a bit lower than the state average.”
Zalkind also noted black and Hispanic children are more likely to have less access to services and to have families who live more deeply in poverty.
“That disparity is of great concern,” she said. "For a state that has as many resources as New Jersey has, this is unacceptable.”
The report also finds:
— The number of low-birthweight babies declined by 11 percent, and a greater number of mothers received early prenatal care across all racial subgroups.
— Infant mortality also dropped by a promising 17 percent. But the infant mortality rate for black babies was three times higher than for white babies.
— Black children are also more likely to be low-birthweight.
New Jersey made some progress in reducing the number of children who re-enter foster care, decreasing by 14 percent from 2009 to 2013. Yet, the number of children who suffered from abuse or neglect after being reunified with their families increased by 31 percent during the same period.