From the Star Ledger:
The rich really did get richer in New Jersey over the past 10 years, and the gulf between the wealthiest and poorest residents is the widest it’s been since the Great Depression, a new study has found.
And as most New Jerseyans were hit hard during a decade that ended in recession — with hundreds of thousands out of work, take-home pay sapped and lifestyles curbed for the poor and middle class — the bad times barely touched the wealthiest Garden Staters, the Legal Services of New Jersey study concluded.
In its first in-depth look at the widening gap between the haves and have-nots, the group’s Poverty Research Institute found:
• New Jersey’s top 20 percent saw their average income rise by 22 percent from 2000 to 2009;
• Those earning less than $34,300 — about 3 million people — took home even smaller average paychecks by decade’s end;
• The top 1 percent — the 75,000 New Jerseyans earning at least $570,000 — accounted for more than a quarter of the new wealth generated in the state during the decade;
• Most of those in the middle didn’t share in the gains, and households led by women and minorities lost ground on both ends of the economic spectrum.
“As the middle class shrinks and the number of people living in poverty or near-poverty increases, their chance of climbing the ladder of economic success is likely to diminish,” the report concludes. “That, in turn, increases the likelihood that not only they but their children in the future will have diminished lives.”
The report found that more than three-quarters of all the new income generated in New Jersey during the decade was earned by the top 20 percent: households earning $132,000 and more. Drop down a few brackets and the picture is different: Families earning $53,231 to $85,500 took home only 11 percent of the decade’s new income.