That New Jersey ranks highly as a good place to raise children isn’t surprising. After all, its residents are among the wealthiest per capita in America. But the makers of public policy in the state must address shortcomings in combating child poverty that the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kid’s Count report says have gotten worse since the recession.
New Jersey ranked fourth overall in the report — below New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Pennsylvania was 14th. While New Jersey received good marks in education and health services for children, it ranked 19th in the economic well-being of families. To a large degree, this is due to New Jersey’s having the third highest housing costs in the country.
About 48 percent of New Jersey children live in households that spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, compared with a national average of 41 percent, and 35 percent in Pennsylvania. New Jersey’s poorest counties — Cumberland, Atlantic, and Cape May — are also its least affordable. More than 60 percent of all the households in those counties pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing, according to a separate report by Advocates for Children of New Jersey.
About 14 percent of New Jersey’s children live in poverty, according to the Kids Count survey. That’s better than Pennsylvania’s 19 percent, or the 22 percent national average, but again, given New Jersey’s wealth, the state should be doing better. One way it could improve the plight of poor families and their children is to restore the Earned Income Tax Credit program, which Gov. Christie vetoed because other tax cuts he favored weren’t approved by the Legislature. His position has placed a heavier economic burden on poor families.