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February 25, 2015
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Report: Critical Supports Lift Kids Out of Poverty
Food stamps, school breakfast, tax credits and other anti-poverty supports make a critical difference in the lives of nearly 250,000 New Jersey children who would otherwise grow up in poverty, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
When measuring child poverty based on the real needs of families, 31 percent of New Jersey children would be living in families who lack the resources to meet their children’s basic needs. However, when supports are factored in, that percentage drops to 19 percent, according to the KIDS COUNT® Data Snapshot, Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United States.
“This report highlights the importance of investing in the supports that New Jersey’s struggling working families need to feed, clothe and house their children,’’ said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director, Advocates for Children of New Jersey, a statewide, non-partisan child action and research organization.
“As the state Legislature debates the governor’s proposed budget, released yesterday, this information can help inform how we invest the state’s scarce resources,” Zalkind added. “Clearly, the health and well-being of New Jersey’s children must be a top priority.”
In looking at poverty through this different lens, the Annie E. Case Foundation examined the U.S. Census Bureau’s “Supplemental Poverty Measure” (SPM), which takes into account the actual cost of living for families, including necessities like housing, food, child care and transportation. Under that measure, 31 percent of the state’s children would live in families earning too little to meet their needs. However, when anti-poverty supports are factored in, that percent drops to 19 percent – translating to 242,000 additional children who benefit from these supports.
These supports include programs like social security, tax credits, unemployment insurance and housing and nutrition assistance programs.
The official poverty measure — created half a century ago — falls short of accurately estimating current need and fails to account for the impact of the largest anti-poverty programs, the report said. Researchers have found that, on average, families need an income of roughly twice the poverty level to cover the basic expenses of housing, food, transportation, health care and child care.
To better understand how families are faring, the U.S. Census Bureau created the Supplemental Poverty Measure in 2011. This measure is an important advance in understanding child poverty and the effects of safety net programs and tax policies on families, the Casey report said. In fact, by using this measure, researchers determined that the rate of children in poverty in the U.S. has declined since 1990, while the official measure shows no real change, according to the report.
Like the official poverty measure, however, the supplemental poverty measure shows that children of color are more likely than white children to live in poverty. Nationally, SPM child poverty rates among Latinos and African Americans (both 29 percent) were nearly three times higher than for whites (10 percent). SPM poverty rates for American Indian children (26 percent) and Asian and Pacific Islander children (16 percent) also were significantly higher than the rate for white children. State level data are not available by race.
“Despite evidence that these anti-poverty supports lift children and families out of poverty, New Jersey has cut assistance in several areas, including food stamps and tax credits for working parents,” Zalkind said. “As the state Legislature begins to discuss the Governor’s proposed budget, restoring these cuts should be at the top of this list. This would have a significant impact on the well-being of thousands of New Jersey children and contribute to the economic health of the state as a whole.”
Visit www.aecf.org for more information and to view the report.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information visit www.aecf.org . KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) is a statewide, non-profit, non-partisan child research and action organization dedicated to ensuring that every child has the chance to grow up safe, healthy and educated. ACNJ is the Kids Count grantee for New Jersey.