Researching Public Law and Public Policy in the Public Interest

Issues Brief: Child Poverty in Essex County, 2000-2015

NOTE: View the article and interactive maps on our blog www.endinequality.com or by using the link at the end of this article.

The number of children living in poverty in Essex County has increased over the past 15 years, and in some places, quite dramatically. Essex County’s poor children live in neighborhoods of extreme poverty.

Child poverty is becoming more concentrated.  CLiME’s analysis of Census data shows that 52.5% of Essex County’s poorest children live in census tracts where the concentration of child poverty exceeds 40 percent—double the rate in 2000. Child poverty is also spreading.  High child poverty rates that had historically been concentrated in Newark are suburbanizing beyond central city limits, and increasing even in some of the county’s wealthier municipalities.

The State of New Jersey is a bastion for localism or home rule, with 565 municipalities in one of the nation's smallest states. As residents and scholars of New Jersey, we know that its localism is both a product and a consequence of class and racial distinctions. 

In many ways, Essex County is a bellwether of New Jersey localism and its ensuing economic inequality. With 22 municipalities, Essex County is home to Newark, the state's largest city, with a median household income of $33,139 and a population that is over 85% people of color (50% Black, 36% Hispanic)[1]. Just six miles away from Newark is Millburn, a township with a median household income of $165,603 and a population that is 11% people of color (8% Asian)[2]. Within the 129 square miles of Essex County, New Jersey residents can live in completely different worlds.

Child poverty is often used as an indicator for the socioeconomic wellbeing of a region. A child is considered to be living in poverty if the child’s family falls under the poverty threshold, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, which is $16,337 for a family of one adult and one child, and $24,036 for a family of two adults and two children. The purpose of this report is to investigate how child poverty is distributed in Essex County and how it has changed over time, using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2000 Census and 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-year estimates[3].  

While the total number of Essex County's children in poverty has increased by 19% over the last fifteen years, this growth varies greatly by locality. The highest numbers of children in poverty are in the county’s anchor city of City of Newark, which has 63% of the County’s total. High rates of child poverty are found in Newark (42%) and its inner ring suburbs of Irvington (35%), East Orange (30%), and Orange (37%).

While child poverty is becoming more concentrated in Newark and its inner ring suburbs, child poverty rates are also significantly growing in Essex County’s suburbs. Child poverty rates grew by over 50% in South Orange, Millburn, Livingston, Cedar Grove, and Verona. 

Highly concentrated child poverty has grown in Newark, and is spreading to its inner ring suburbs. In 2000, there were 41 Essex County census tracts where child poverty rates were greater than 40%, with 88% of them located in the City of Newark (36), followed by Irvington (3), East Orange (1), and Orange (1). By 2015, this type of extremely concentrated child poverty had spread to even more census tracts in the communities of Newark (45), followed by Irvington (7), East Orange (4), and Orange (2). 

Highly concentrated poverty is doubly challenging for households living in these areas, because not only are they struggling to make ends meet in their own situation, but their neighborhood imposes even greater barriers to mobility. Neighborhoods with highly concentrated poverty have higher crime rates, higher rates of chronic illness, and poorer school outcomes. Additionally, neighborhood social capital limits access to resources for greater opportunity.

Metropolitan equity is the idea that all parts of a region are relevant to the distribution of opportunity in any part of that region. While our county’s fierce localism may attempt to create divisions between poor black Newark families and wealthy white Millburn families, it is only a matter of miles that separate the two, and we are bound by shared infrastructure, tax dollars, county services, and commuting patterns. As child poverty grows within the county, and highly concentrated poverty spreads throughout the county, it is imperative that we work together to address child poverty and the inequality that affects all residents of Essex County.

Our findings:

1.      In Essex County, the child poverty rate increased from 20.5% to 24.4%. In the City of Newark, over 40% of children live in poverty.

2.      While child poverty has remained concentrated in Essex County’s largest municipalities, it is spreading.

3.      While Essex County’s smallest municipalities have very low child poverty, many have seen their child poverty rates increase by more than 50 percent since 2000.

4.      Poor children increasingly live in areas with high concentrations of child poverty, meaning most of the children around them are also poor.

5.      Inner-ring suburbs of Orange, East Orange, and Irvington have seen the largest increases in child poverty.

 

Visit our maps for more child poverty statistics about each place:

Embed “Essex County: Child Poverty by Municipality”

 

In Essex County, the child poverty rate increased.

Rates of child poverty increased by 19 percent in Essex County, which equates to more than five thousand additional poor children than it had in 2000.

Table 1: Children in Poverty in Essex County

 

2000

2015

Number of children in poverty

41,358

46,420

Percentage of children in poverty

20.5%

24.4%

 

Child poverty has remained concentrated in Essex County’s largest municipalities.

The clear majority of Essex County’s poor children live in Newark, followed distantly by inner-ring suburbs of Irvington, East Orange, and Orange. In 2000, 65 percent of poor children in Essex County lived in Newark. By 2015, 63.7% did. In 2000, 90.7% of Essex County’s children lived in either Newark, Irvington, Orange, and East Orange. By 2015, 89.3% did. The percentages have changed very little on the municipal level.

 

Table 2: Share of Population of All Children Living in Poverty in Essex County

 

2000

2015

Newark

65.0%

63.7%

Irvington

9.1%

10.4%

East Orange

11.4%

9.3%

Orange

5.2%

5.9%

Poor Hubs

90.7%

89.3%

 

In 2000, there were 41 census tracts where child poverty rates were greater than 40%, and 36 (88%) of them were located in the City of Newark. East Orange and Orange each had 1, while Irvington had 3. By 2015, this type of extremely concentrated child poverty was present in 45 census tracts in Newark, 7 in Irvington, 4 in East Orange, and 2 in Orange. 

Most small municipalities in Essex County have very low rates of child poverty.

Seventeen of the 21 municipalities in Essex County have child poverty rates of less than 10%. 

Some municipalities have seen increases in child poverty rates of more than 50%.

While child poverty rates increased in virtually all parts of Essex County, six municipalities saw increases of more than 50%: Irvington, South Orange, Milburn, Livingston, Cedar Grove, and Verona. 

More children in poverty live in census tracts with high concentrations of child poverty.

Researchers have found that at certain thresholds, concentrated poverty in neighborhoods has negative outcomes for individuals.[i] These “concentration effects” increase when neighborhoods have greater than 20 percent household poverty. The majority of Essex County’s poorest children (52.5%) live in census tracts where the concentration of child poverty exceeds 40 percent. This is double what it was in 2000 (26.6%).

In other words, more than half of the County’s children are living in areas where it is hardest to overcome place-based disadvantage. In 2015, eighty-five percent of poor children in Essex County, or nearly 21 percent of all children in Essex County, both poor and non-poor, live in census tracts where concentrated poverty is demonstrated to impact their access to opportunity.

Table 3: Share of Children in Poverty who live in Census Tracts with Concentrated Poverty

 

2000

2015

Tract < 10% child poverty

9.8%

6.7%

Tract > 20% child poverty

75.2%

85.0%

Tract > 30% child poverty

44.2%

77.6%

Tract > 40% child poverty

26.1%

51.2%

Tract > 50% child poverty

14.3%

29.7%

Embed “Essex County: Child Poverty by Census Tract

Inner-ring suburbs had the largest increases in child poverty.

The inner-ring suburbs of Irvington, Orange, and East Orange have seen the largest increases in child poverty. At the same time Irvington suffered losses in overall child population, it’s population of children living in poverty grew. This led to Irvington having the most meaningful increase in both population and percentage of children in poverty.

Table 4: Trends in Child Poverty in Irvington 2000-2015

 

2000

2015

Change

Number of Children

16,423

13,988

-14.8%

Number of Children in Poverty

3,761

4,868

29.4%

Percentage of Children in Poverty

22.9%

34.8%

52%

Unique in Essex County, East Orange saw increases in its child poverty rate even as it decreased its numbers of children in poverty.

Table 5: Trends in Child Poverty in East Orange 2000-2015

 

2000

2015

Change

Number of Children

19,109

14,618

-23.5%

Number of Children in Poverty

4,727

4,326

-8.4%

Percentage of Children in Poverty

24.7%

30.4%

23%

The City of Orange saw nearly identical patterns in growth and decline as Irvington, albeit on a smaller scale.

Table 6: Trends in Child Poverty in Orange 2000-2015

 

2000

2015

Change

Number of Children

8,680

7,390

-14.9%

Number of Children in Poverty

2,139

2,737

28%

Percentage of Children in Poverty

24.6%

37.4%

52%

Child poverty in Essex County is black child poverty.

It is no coincidence that the County’s municipalities with the highest child poverty rates are one and the same as the County’s majority-black municipalities. Sixty-three percent of poor families in high child-poverty cities are black.

 

2015

 

Population: Percentage Black

Children: Percentage in Poverty

Newark

50.1%

42.3%

Irvington

85.1%

34.8%

East Orange

89.5%

30.4%

Orange

73.5%

37.4%

 

2015

 

Percent Children in Poverty

Percent Children Black

Percent Children Hispanic

Percent Children White Non-Hispanic

Newark

42.3%

51.5%

40.2%

6.2%

Irvington

34.8%

85.8%

12.2%

0.3%

East Orange

30.4%

91.1%

9.7%

0.1%

Orange

37.4%

73.5%

25%

0.6%

 

2015

 

Percent Families that are Poor

Percent Poor Families that are Black

Percent Poor Families that are White Non-Hispanic

Newark

26.4%

55.6%

5.6%

Irvington

22%

81%

2.1%

East Orange

18.5%

86.4%

0.3%

Orange

22.7%

75.4%

0.6%

Embed “Population Trends in Essex County 2000-2015”

Table 4: Children in Poverty by Municipality 2000-2015

 

2015 Estimate Total

Children

Children in Poverty

2015 ACS Estimates

2000 Census

Number

%

Number

%

Essex County

162,129

46,420

24.4%

41,358

20.5%

Newark city

71,039

29,597

42.3%

26,907

36.6%

Irvington township

14,086

4,868

34.8%

3,761

22.9%

East Orange city

14,618

4,326

30.4%

4,727

24.7%

City of Orange

7,390

2,737

37.4%

2,139

24.6%

Belleville township

7,301

945

13.1%

843

10.9%

Bloomfield township

9,796

856

8.8%

618

6.3%

West Orange township

10,574

659

6.3%

614

6.0%

Montclair township

9,749

539

5.6%

520

5.4%

Maplewood township

7,104

408

5.8%

324

4.9%

Nutley township

5,671

302

5.4%

260

4.4%

South Orange Village township

3,466

250

7.3%

96

2.6%

Millburn township

6,594

240

3.6%

86

1.4%

Cedar Grove township

2,366

187

7.9%

18

0.8%

Verona township

3,008

144

4.9%

79

2.6%

Livingston township

7,660

138

1.8%

87

1.2%

West Caldwell township

2,302

85

3.7%

70

2.5%

Caldwell borough

1,374

70

5.1%

27

2.0%

North Caldwell borough

1,856

53

2.9%

40

2.4%

Essex Fells borough

597

16

2.7%

6

0.9%

Fairfield township

1,783

-

0.0%

63

4.2%

Glen Ridge borough

2,482

-

0.0%

73

3.3%

Roseland borough

1,313

-

0.0%

-

0.0%

http://www.endinequality.com/home-1/2017/2/2/issues-brief-child-poverty-in-essex-county

This issues brief begins a series of CLiME issue briefs, periodically analyzing regional data that is relevant to issues of place-based inequality and metropolitan equity.



[1] Statistics are per the 2011-2015 American Community 5-Year Estimates by the U.S. Census.

[2] Statistics are per the 2010 U.S Census data, which is the most recent data available for Millburn.

[3] 2000 Census data has been normalized to 2015 census tract boundaries, allowing for direct comparisons of change at the census tract level between 2000 and 2015. While we thought it important to include the many small municipalities in our analyses, it is important to note that their 2015 estimates have high margins of error.

 



[i] George C. Galster, “The Mechanism(s) of Neighborhood Effects: Theory, Evidence, and Policy Implications.” Presentation at the ESRC Seminar, St. Andrews University, Scotland, UK, 4–5 February 2010.