Camden, N.J. named poorest city in the United States, replaces Reading, Pa.
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 1, 2012 22:10
Camden, N.J. recently replaced Reading, Pa. as the most impoverished city in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Graduate student and southern New Jersey resident Nicholas Emge said Camden’s high poverty rate does not surprise him because Cooper Hospital, Campbell’s Soup and Rutgers University are the only major industries there.
“A lot of the businesses flat-out left the area,” Emge said. “There’s not a lot of stuff for citizens to do in terms of finding jobs locally.”
Robert Corrales, the Camden city spokesman, said the city’s poverty rate is based on a widespread list of issues the area has been facing for decades.
“Like any urban city in the U.S. that lost manufacturing jobs, we have seen some very hard times,” Corrales said. “We are trying to transform ourselves and move forward towards a brighter future for Camden.”
Junior Molly Cashman, who frequently attends concerts at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, said she thinks the city looks very run-down. She said she thinks it needs to strengthen public safety because the city recently minimized its police force.
“With less cops it’s going to increase crime probably because no one’s patrolling the streets,” Cashman said. “People in poverty get desperate to get money and do what they can.”
Corrales said Camden’s public safety and education systems must be reformed in order for the city to attract more economic development. He said the city needs more companies to invest in Camden to create a solid base so businesses that come to Camden will stay. According to Corrales, the city needs more businesses like Campbell’s Soup, which has remained in Camden.
He said city officials want to encourage a mixed income because Camden cannot be a residence solely for lower income families. Middle and upper class families need to move to Camden, too, he said. According to Corrales, the city government strives to create real sustainable solutions using a holistic approach.
“We need everyone involved—residents, higher education and health care institutions, the government,” he said. “We need everyone at the table to get to all the problems of poverty and Camden and to everywhere as a whole. Camden is not the only city that we see an increase in poverty. We see it throughout the state and the country.”
Professor Jonathan Justice, an expert on public budgeting and finance and economic development, said though he has not studied Camden specifically, he thinks the city needs to bring people in from the suburbs and create more employment opportunities.
Justice said in the 1960s through the 1980s, there was depopulation in cities as people moved to the suburbs, and many manufacturing establishments closed. He said he thinks the types of businesses that once drove Camden’s economy no longer exist because manufacturing jobs have declined in the U.S due to cheaper labor abroad. Blue collar, semi-skilled jobs still exist but in lesser numbers, which may have contributed to Camden’s economic distress.
“Until the mid-1970s a lot of Americans had expectations that with a high school diploma, if you were willing to work hard, you could get a factory job,” Justice said. “They thought without having attended college you could support a family at a middle class level.”