From NJ Spotlight:
The percentage of New Jerseyans living in poverty last year dropped below 10% for the first time this decade, although the proportion of the state’s residents who are considered poor remained higher than before the Great Recession, according to the most recent survey by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Given the 2018 American Community Survey also found the median household income to be stagnant when inflation was figured in, this means the typical family found itself in no better shape last year than in 2017.
Taken together, the two sets of data paint a positive, though not necessarily rosy, picture of New Jersey households’ financial health.
“New Jersey’s economy continues to improve, but not all residents are benefitting from this progress,” said Brandon McKoy, president of New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP), a left-leaning think tank. “Poverty rates remain higher than pre-Recession levels. Far too many New Jersey families still struggle to pay for basic expenses like food and childcare.”
New Jersey’s median household income last year was $81,740. That was slightly higher than in 2017, though adjusted for inflation, it was actually $23 lower — but when accounting for the margin of error that difference is not considered significant. Last year’s median income was about 3% higher than the 2016 inflation-adjusted income and 7% more than in 2014; both of those changes are considered statistically significant.
The drop in the statewide poverty rate to 9.5% of all New Jerseyans, down a statistically significant 0.5% from 2017, was welcomed by advocates for those who are of low income. It was the lowest rate since 2009. Still, advocates noted that the rate remains higher than at the beginning of the 2007-2009 Great Recession, when less than 9% of New Jersey residents were considered poor by federal standards.
“Any drop in the poverty rate is a welcome development, but it cannot and should not obscure the fact that poverty in our state last year remained significantly higher than at the beginning of the recession 1l years ago,” said Melville D. Miller Jr., president of Legal Services of New Jersey. “That’s deeply disturbing and shameful.”