More NJ kids are living in poverty, report shows
A new report finds New Jersey is still one of the best states in the nation for children, but we've also got significant problems that are getting worse.
The top five states in the survey were Minnesota, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Iowa and Vermont. Mississippi ranked lowest.
Cecilia Zalkind, the executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, said the fact that New Jersey dropped to 26th in the country for economic well-being is alarming.
"What we've seen is growing child poverty, more children whose families lack secure employment, and we have also seen an increase in children living in high poverty areas and there are pockets of poverty in Jersey that are very deep," she said.
Zalkind said some of them are not surprising, like in the major cities, "but some of our rural counties have them as well, Salem Gloucester, Atlantic, Cape May all have very high levels of poverty."
The report ranked New Jersey second in the nation for education.
"Of alarm to us, and we saw this, was that we have fewer children attending pre-school, and fewer 4th graders reading at grade proficiency this is alarming," she added.
Zalkind said one goal is to see high quality pre-school expanded in New Jersey, but that has not been funded since the law mandating pre-school was passed in 2008.
The report also ranted New Jersey sixth in the country when it comes to kids health.
"We've seen fewer low weight babies, fewer children without health insurance, fewer child and teen deaths, as well as fewer teens who abuse alcohol or drugs," she said.
She said the bottom line is the economic well-being of children in New Jersey remains a significant concern
"There's been a 13 percent increase in the number of children living in poverty," she said, "We're now at 17 percent or 333,000 children whose families have incomes at or below the federal poverty level. This has an impact on every aspect of a child's life, low income families have not rebounded from the economic recession."