Cumberland County ranks as the second-poorest county in New Jersey, according to a new report.
Thirty-seven percent of the residents of Cumberland County were below double the federal poverty level in 2011, which was also the highest rate reported in the county from 2006 to 2011, the study from the Legal Services of New Jersey Poverty Research Institute said.
Nationally, the poverty line is defined as about $23,000 for a family of four. But the New Jersey study puts the threshold at double that number because, it says, New Jersey’s cost of living is significantly higher than the national average.
The study concludes that more than 2 million people, a quarter of New Jerseyans, are struggling to meet their basic needs. Their numbers have increased since the beginning of the recession in 2007 by more than 300,000.
The state’s poorest county is Passaic, followed by Cumberland, Essex and Hudson, according to the report released Sunday.
In Atlantic County, the percentage of the population living below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or FPL, in 2011 was 32.4 percent, the report said. The highest level since 2006 was in 2010 at 33.4 percent.
Cape May County reached 25.9 percent in 2011, but the highest reported was in 2009 at 28.5 percent. Ocean County saw its highest rate of poverty in 2011 at 27.4 percent.
The state’s 2011 poverty rate, 10.4 percent, is close to the rates seen more than 50 years ago in 1959 — the rate then was 11.3 percent, the report said.
“Poverty rates in New Jersey have risen steadily since the beginning of the recession, reaching record highs in 2011,” the report said. This is evident in the unemployment rates and food stamp enrollments.
The report criticized the antipoverty approach in the state, saying that it involves various programs and departments that do not interact to find a mutual solution but rather use a “patchwork” approach by individually targeting different issues.
The report also finds that children and Hispanics have suffered the most from increasing poverty.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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