Report: Cape May Among Worst New Jersey Counties for Kids’ Health, Wellbeing

Cape May ranks lower than Camden County, and beats out only Atlantic and Cumberland.

A new report by the Newark-based nonprofit Advocates for Children of New Jersey puts three South Jersey counties at the bottom of a ranking that examines the state of children’s health and wellbeing in New Jersey. The biggest bit of news? Cape May County dropped five slots between 2015 and 2016, from 14th to 19th. That puts Cape May third from the bottom of the 21-county list; it ranks higher than Cumberland (21st) and Atlantic (20th) counties, but falls three spots below Camden County, which ranks at 16th. 

According to the report, the top three New Jersey counties for kids are Morris, Hunterdon and Somerset, all in northern New Jersey.

The rankings serve as a companion snapshot to the group’s freshly updated New Jersey Kids Count 2016 report, which gets into nitty-gritty detail about family economics, child care and early education, health, child protection and other factors that impact a child’s wellbeing. “[Cape May County] dropped in almost every category,” reports the Press of Atlantic City, “including the percentage of children in poverty, median income, the percentage of women getting prenatal care and infant mortality rate.”

The drop may be at least partly attributed to relative improvements in other counties, and Cape May’s highly seasonal, highly fluctuating population, according to Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey.

Meanwhile, Camden County posted a better standing — one slot up from the year prior — thanks to improvements on several fronts, including increased median income of families with children (from $64,758 in 2010 to $71,911 in 2014), a drop in infant deaths (a 7 percent decrease between 2008 and 2012), and a decrease in teen births (down 17 percent between 2008 and 2012), among others.

State-wide, the report found that, despite median family income rising from $83,000 to $89,000 between 2010 and 2014, child poverty rates likewise rose throughout New Jersey between 2010 and 2014, with all but five counties posting increases the number of children living below the poverty line.

According to the report:

The growth in the percentage of children living in extreme poverty (50 percent of the federal poverty line) is particularly staggering, given that this figure corresponds to yearly earnings of $12,000 a year or less for a family of four. Equally troubling, the percentage of children living below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, or low-income children, increased by 7 percent. In 2014, 32 percent of New Jersey’s children were considered low-income. For children of color, the realities of poverty were even starker. More than 50 percent of New Jersey’s Latino and African-American children were low-income ($47,700 a year for a family of four), compared to less than 20 percent of Asian or Non-Hispanic White children.