By Megan McCue
More New Jerseyans are finding it difficult to pay for typical household expenses, according to a follow-up survey conducted by the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling. Five questions from the first survey, originally published in July 2022, were repeated to gauge the change, if any, in public opinion over the last 11 months, and touched on subjects including technology, marijuana, poverty, and the cost of living.
In July 2022, 42% of New Jerseyans indicated they found it somewhat or very difficult to pay household expenses such as food, mortgages, or medical expenses in the past week. In the May 2023 poll, that number rose to 48%, meaning nearly half of all New Jersey residents are experiencing difficulties paying their bills.
Living in the Garden State isn’t cheap—the cost of living in New Jersey is approximately 12% higher than the national average, according to the New Jersey Digest. And while inflation appears to be cooling, its effects on the cost of housing, groceries, and other necessities continue to linger. In New Jersey, almost half of all households spend more than 30% of their income on rent, which matches the national average.
Nearly 15% of New Jersey’s children were living below the federal poverty level in 2021, up 2% from 2019, per a report from the Advocates for Children of New Jersey. And according to a recent report published by the NJSPL and the Center for Women and Work, Census data indicate that the need for childcare in the state has increased to 69.4% for households in which all available parents are working, further burdening residents already struggling to access and afford childcare in the state.
Interestingly, the updated survey findings also indicate NJ residents have more awareness of the hardships required to get out of poverty. In July, 83% of people polled said that they believed it was somewhat or very difficult for a poor person to work hard and get out of poverty, and by May, that number rose to 89%. This increase may be a sign that the rise in the cost of living has in turn given residents a better understanding of the costs required for a person to pull themselves out of poverty.
With inflation falling to its lowest rate since March 2021, we can hope that this is a sign that some of the costs of living in New Jersey will lessen and relieve the pressure on New Jerseyans’ wallets.
 The survey, first published in July 2022, conducted a secondary poll by telephone using live interviewers from April 27 to May 5, 2023 with a scientifically selected random sample of 1,002 New Jersey adults, 18 or older. This telephone poll included 304 adults reached on a landline phone and 698 adults reached on a cell phone, all acquired through random digital dialing; 250 of the cell phone completes were acquired through one-to-one SMS text messaging by live interviewers that led respondents to an online version of the survey. In this poll, the adjusted margin error for 1,002 New Jersey adults is +/-3.6 percentage points at a 95% confidence interval.