Camden, N.J. passes Reading, Pa. as poorest U.S. city

CAMDEN, N.J. - September 20, 2012

For Angel Ramos who's lived in Camden 40 years, news of the city's poverty wasn't particularly shocking. New statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau place Camden as the country's most impoverished city in 2011. The Bureau estimates that 42.5% of the people live below the poverty line in Camden. Reading, which was ranked number 1, has dropped to 6th.

"There are no jobs for people here," says Ramos.

"It's hard to get a job out here," agreed Camden resident Lorrine Sherman. "Real hard to get a job."

While fundraising brochures were being bundled at the United Way in Camden County, Executive Director Michael Moynihan explains there's a number of underlying issues that contribute to cycle of poverty in the city.

While the United Way and its partners are engaged in short-term initiatives to turn Camden around, a more permanent solution may be found long-term. Moynihan believes it starts with early childhood education.

"Once kids starts school if they achieve experience."

Father Mike McCue echoes the emphasis on early education at places like Holy Name School in North Camden. While he says there's no doubt there is poverty, there are also very active community members committed to Camden. Look no further then the inspiring messages written on the boarded up home across from the church.

"Very often I think the measure of success in this city is getting out of Camden," McCue said. "But there are a number of people...great thing."

Census figures say the poverty rate in Reading dropped from 41.3 percent in 2010 to 40.1 in 2011. That means the city of about 88,000 people is no longer considered the country's most-impoverished.

The city's average household income increased 2.8 percent in 2011 to $34,083, according to a report in the Reading Eagle newspaper.

But an official with the United Way in Reading cautions that the rates are just estimates. Senior Vice President of Community Impact Pat Giles says the margin of error for Reading, Camden and other similarly struggling cities mean it's hard to tell which one truly has the highest rate.

Information from the Associated Press and the Reading Eagle,

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