Income Inequality in New Jersey Poses Severe Consequences for Children Living in Poverty

United Way Countering Poverty One Community at a Time
By James W. Horne, Jr. President/CEO, United Way of Greater union County
 
Of the 2 million children living in New Jersey, black and Hispanic children are more prone to be living in poverty and often become prime candidates for the school-to-prison pipeline.  A staggering revelation is that 24 percent of all families are headed by a single mother, according to Investors.com.  That’s just shy of one-quarter of the population. 
 
In a recent report from Kids Count, NJ, it was sited that of the “2 million children in New Jersey 49 percent white, 24 percent Latino, 15 percent black, nine percent Asian, and eight percent identified as another race or of more than one race, according to the report.  But one-third of black children and 29 percent of Latino children and 20 percent of children of mixed race lived below the poverty line in 2013, compared to eight percent of white children and six percent of Asian children. The federal poverty line was $23,050 for a family of four in 2012.”
 
In our own research, an illuminating factor of this social phenomenon is that these children are often times a product of a single-parent household led by a woman.  Subsequently, this was the outcome that United Way of Greater Union County identified by conducting a needs assessment survey of the families we serve in Union County, North Plainfield and South Plainfield. Certainly, there were other contributing factors that lead to families with children living in poverty, such as job loss, low-wage income, lack of education and professional training, along with access to healthcare.
 
Clearly, with single-parent households on the rise, it’s an important factor that cannot be ignored.  Nor can the fact that more men of color are disproportionately wards of the prison industrial complex, according to NAACP.org, making up 58 percent of the prison population. This, too, is in direct correlation with black and Latino children living in poverty.
 
However, in a strategic effort to strengthen the families we serve, United Way of Greater Union County is countering and combatting these social ills through community impact initiatives.  By organizing and aligning all of the resources and programs of a community into strategies that mutually reinforce each other and imploring community stakeholders’ involvement, we’re impacting the lives of families - one community at a time.
 
Undoubtedly, empowering families through our Family Success Centers, with the most recent one opening in Hillside, is making a difference. Families now have access to a wide-range of services in a one-stop environment of social services.  Having already identified the needs of the targeted communities, services have been tailor made for families in need of employment, housing, advocacy, parental education, referrals and more.  Our health care partnership with Nurse Family Partnership provides prenatal and post natal care to low-income pregnant first-time mothers.  And our newest initiative will work with community-based organizations to serve youth and provide supportive services coupled with job training to help young adults attain self-sufficiency.
 
At this time in our nation’s history, it is unacceptable for nearly one-quarter of this nation’s population to be living in poverty. The 18th Century philosopher Immanuel Kant said: “One generation cannot bind a succeeding one from being more enlightened. To do so would be to commit a crime against nature.”  Being our brother’s keeper is the only way to give the next generation of children equal access to the life they deserve.