Cost of Poverty/Urban Agenda
Two studies to change a state and its cities. One to state the problem, the second to offer solutions.
In a report commissioned by a consortium led by the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, the John S. Watson Institute at Thomas Edison State University, and the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association—The Cost of Poverty: The Perpetuating Cycle of Concentrated Poverty in New Jersey Cities—we explored the conditions that have lead to concentrated and structural poverty in the state’s rural and urban areas, as well as how those conditions prevent government from providing a sufficient response. By examining decades of tax records, budgets, and census data, we were able to trace the formation of conditions that led so many cities to lose their tax bases, fall into budget distress and stay there—primarily through macroeconomic forces well beyond their control. Our work demonstrated that without a state-level, structural solution to address concentrated poverty, it is not mathematically possible for cities to dig themselves out and deliver the unique services their businesses and residents need.
In the fall of 2017, New Jersey was set to elect a new governor, who would have a unique opportunity to reshape the state after two terms of Governor Chris Christie. Building upon the work of the Cost of Poverty report, the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association sponsored the drafting of a detailed Urban Agenda—Designing Urban Policy for a Thriving New Jersey—to be used by either successful gubernatorial candidate. While the document offered specific solutions for New Jersey, it offered three case studies that combined our three focus fields: education, tax policy, and economic development. Each case study was meant to offer the new governor’s team a detailed road map of how other states tackled the most difficult problems in their cities; we highlighted the Almono/Hazelwood Green project in Pittsburgh, the Say Yes to Education in Syracuse and Buffalo, and ArcelorMittal’s work in Northwest Indiana.