FAIR LAWN, NJ — About 44 percent of Fair Lawn-area childrens’ families face financial hardship, according to new research from United Way of Northern New Jersey. The nonprofit contends that traditional poverty metrics “systemically” undercount the number of children across New Jersey and the nation in households that struggle to make ends meet.
United Way measures financial struggle not just through the federal poverty line but through its own ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) metric. ALICE households live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford the basics for survival, according to the organization.
In Bergen County’s West Central region, which includes Fair Lawn, Garfield, and Lodi, 44 percent of children fell under the ALICE threshold in 2019, United Way analysis shows.
Among Hispanic children in this area, 64 percent were part of families or households that struggled to afford basic necessities, compared to 38 percent of white children.
Sixteen percent of U.S. children fall under the poverty line. But 49 percent are in families that fall below the ALICE threshold, reflecting a national struggle for families with children to afford essentials in the modern economy, according to United Way of Northern New Jersey.
“Undercounting the number of children who are at risk can have lifelong consequences,” said Kiran Handa Gaudioso, CEO of United Way of Northern New Jersey. “Thousands of children are locked out of receiving critical supports for stable housing, food and quality education, all of which can inhibit healthy child development.”
Forty-one percent of New Jersey children have families that fall below the ALICE threshold, according to United Way of Northern New Jersey. Twenty-two percent of households that fell below the threshold had two adults working.
The report also showed racial disparities for financially struggling families. In New Jersey, 63 percent of Black children, 60 percent of Hispanic children and 27 percent of white children were below the ALICE threshold.
To determine local data, United Way of Northern New Jersey separates its maps into Public Use Microdata Areas (PUMAs) — a U.S. Census Bureau geography that separates areas into groupings of about 100,000 people each.
Sortable data includes breakdowns of different demographics and factors, including race and ethnicity, living arrangements and public-assistance status.
According to the research, half of New Jersey families below the ALICE threshold reported last fall that their children “sometimes or often” didn’t have enough to eat, in contrast with 32 percent of higher-income households.
“Having accurate, complete data is the foundation for designing equitable solutions,” said Dr. Stephanie Hoopes, national director of United For ALICE. “COVID-19 hit ALICE families so much harder than others because they struggle to build savings yet often don’t qualify for financial assistance.”