Although blessed by diversity, Paterson faces widespread poverty and hardship. High unemployment and expensive housing stifle investment in the community, while educational deficits, illiteracy, and language barriers prevent individuals from obtaining a sound and comprehensive education. This leads to a reduced labor foundation for obtaining and sustaining of employment.
These challenges for Paterson residents have created the need for organizations like St. Paul's CDC who can help those who want to succeed by giving them a "hand up," not a "handout."
The following profiles will provide some information about the City of Paterson, but should not be taken as the definitive source of statistical data on the city.
According to the 2005 American Community Survey, the Paterson population totaled 148,353-however the Paterson Board of Education estimates that the population is under counted by up to 20,000 people due to the illegal conversion of dwellings into multiple units and the high number of undocumented aliens.
With an area of only 8.3 square miles, Paterson is one of the most densely populated cities in the United States.
Racial and ethnic profile.
As recently as 1970, Paterson was 70% Caucasian, but by 1980 the White population had shrunk 36.2% and the African-American and Hispanic populations had increased to 34% and 19.1%, respectively. By the 2005 American Community Survey, Hispanics outnumbered all ethnic groups at 56.2% of the total population, with African-Americans at 28.9%, and non-Hispanic whites constituting a rapidly dwindling 12.3% of the population.
In 2005, the median household income for all Paterson residents was $34,987, with $20,894 as the average gross adjusted income (AGI) for residents of St. Paul's Church and CDC zip code (07501) in 2000. Among all zip codes reported in the U.S., some 94% of zip codes in the United States reported a higher AGI than Paterson's 5th Ward.
35,754 individuals-over 24% of Paterson's population-where living below the Federal income poverty level of $9,310 for a single adult.
The American Community Survey found that 33.6% of families living in poverty were headed by women without support from a spouse or partner.
33.6% of individuals living in poverty were children 5 to 17 years of age, 19.1% were 18-65, and 32.3% were 65 or above. Paterson's poor represent its racial and ethnic mix: they are 51% Hispanic, 31% African-American, 16% Caucasian, 1% Asian, and 1% other.
According to the Executive Director of the Paterson Education Fund, over 80% of school children in Paterson are eligible for federally subsidized breakfasts and lunches-a nationally recognized indicator of poverty.
New Jersey Department of Labor statistics have shown that employment rates in Passaic County have not increased in the last 20 years.
A shrinking manufacturing base within Passaic County, which employed many low-skilled workers, has caused disproportionately high unemployment numbers among adult residents in the area. The result is that many families have to rely on public entitlements to meet their basic needs.
Illiteracy and Language Barriers
The US Census estimated that 50% of Paterson residents were non-readers or read below the 6th grade level. Even the skill levels of high school graduates were low when compared to their counterparts in other parts of the state--as evidenced by the low proportion of 11th graders (38%) who were able to pass the High School Proficiency Test (HSPT). Unfortunately, only 60% of Paterson students graduate from High School according to graduation data from the Paterson Education Fund.
Significant educational deficits exist among the elementary school students of Paterson as well. The 2006 NCLB Report, published by the New Jersey Department of Education, shows that a disproportionately large number of district students attain only partial proficiency in language arts (40%), and mathematics (35%), relative to the state as a whole. Because of the diverse populations in Passaic County, and waves of new immigrants entering the area, language barriers are a large part of why illiteracy rates are so high. The American Community Survey estimates that out of the more than 132,200 residents who have lived within the county for at least five years, 60% (79,912) speak English as a second language, and 31% (42,046) speak English less than "very well."
The price of homes and land in Paterson is prohibitively high for most of its population. In 2000, the median house value in Paterson was $136,310 and the average income for Paterson residents was $39,093. But even those who are fortunate enough to own their homes face extensive upkeep, as more than half of Paterson's housing stock is over 50 years old, making lead paint hazards and other physical deterioration issues common.
High housing costs have resulted in a high renter occupancy rate, with 68.5% of Paterson residents renting their homes.
Homelessness and Hunger
The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that there are more than 7,000 homeless persons in Passaic County. Besides their homeless condition, many of these individuals have issues of severe mental illness (17%), alcohol and drug abuse (19%), or are living with HIV/AIDS (16%).
Hunger is also a harsh reality for many Passaic County adults and children. The Paterson Education Fund estimates that some 80% of Paterson school children are currently receiving free lunches. In New Jersey, it is estimated that over 255,000 children (one out of every eight) live in poverty and are at-risk for hunger and chronic illness. Over 20,000 of these children reside in Passaic County.
While over 15,000 women and children receive WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) support in Passaic County, these food supplements are often inadequate for satisfying their basic needs, forcing them to turn to food pantries for supplemental assistance.
Return to top