We can address the link between fiscal and physical health in cities

Mar. 20, 2019

David Eichenthal & Marc Gourevitch

The Hill

In Trenton, N.J., local government is facing an acute fiscal challenge that is largely driven by the local economy. 

At just over $34,000, Trenton’s median household income is less than half of the county and state median. The city’s poverty rate is almost 28 percent, more than double the statewide rate, while the poverty rate for families with young children (under age 5) is even higher. It’s no real surprise that the concentration of low-income and high-poverty residents translates into pressure on the tax base: the city’s taxable assessed value has remained essentially flat for the past two decades.

The same economic challenges that affect Trenton’s fiscal health impact the physical health of its residents. Low income often goes hand in hand with food insecurity and reliance on less healthful foods. When unemployment is high, so are rates of stress and accompanying poorer mental and physical health outcomes. Poverty often leaves families unable to afford safe housing, resulting in health-degrading exposures to lead and mold.

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