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Is the glass half empty or full?

By: Sammy Beethoven

This is my second attempt to update readers on the economic and social state of Camden, NJ and my feelings about the city with some reasons for these thoughts. As I mentioned last week, I am not a professional columnist nor writer, but a professor of finance and capital markets. I did a tremendous amount of research a while back on Camden for a project, on why the city is known as such a loser, and this may qualify me as more of an expert on what’s wrong or right with the city than some of those who actually have a say in how the city develops. When you’re told the city has over a third of its residents living below the poverty line, it starts to raise a lot of questions. As we mentioned last week, I believe education is the key to improving anyone’s economic and social standing. But when the graduation rate from high school in Camden is somewhere around 60% while the whole state of New Jersey’s rate is somewhere around 90%, it doesn’t look like Camden will be getting well anytime soon.

When you study any population center, it may be wise to look at who is to be governed. A good football coach looks at his roster of players, and then designs the most effective strategy for offense and defenses given the talent of his given players. In Camden’s case, the coach would be looking at a population that’s around 43% black and 50% Latino. I know when you drive into the city you look at the shiny new buildings of Cooper Hospital or if you come in from the other direction, the glistening headquarters of Campbell’s Soup, plus the historic Government Center and the flags of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University. But when the clock blows most of these professionals will scoot out of town to their homes in suburbia. So, who’s coaching these players? I took a quick look at the managers of the city and found this quite to my surprise. While the mayor is black, the 7 city commissioners consisted of 5 whites and 2 blacks, with no recognizable Hispanics in the lot. Moreover, the Director and Assistant Director of the Board are white. I can see Jay-Z, Drake, and DaBaby addressing the Board, with the commissioners asking” who are these guys wanting to put on a concert”?

You see one thing ties into another. An uneducated population (Almost 17% of pregnant women continue smoking) is a poor population (Over 36% of the population lives under the poverty level) and poor people tend to be obese. Camden’s obesity rate is far below the state’s average and nearer the national average of over 40%. Most people equate obesity to the South where the education rates are low, and the poverty rates are high. The same can be said for the Pacific Islands and thereabouts, where the places like the island of Nautu have an obesity rate of 90%. Many carbs, little protein. While I digress, I might add that Camden has the highest crime rate in the city where you have a 1 of 28 chance of being a victim. Again, uneducated=poor=fat=distressed=crime.

So, our coach has been given quite a team to work with: It might help if he had a few assistants that had the same backgrounds and therefore could relate to his players.

Just something to think about….

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