Poster Paper: Is State AID a Driver of Economic Revitalization ? : Comparing Camden to Peer Municipalities in New Jersey

Thursday, November 2, 2017
Regency Ballroom (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

David Okereke, Rutgers University, Camden

Title: Is State AID a Driver of Economic Revitalization? : Comparing Camden to Peer Municipalities in New Jersey.


Camden, New Jersey, like most American industrial cities suffered decline in the latter half of the 20th century as the manufacturing base and middle income residents moved out to the suburbs. The urban deindustrialization triggered massive economic inequalities and concentrated poverty in cities that had driven America’s past economic growth. While some cities began to rebound in the 1990s, having made significant revitalization strides, others, like Camden, have continued to decline, with any asserted revival failing to trickle down to residents. In July of 2002, the state of New Jersey enacted the Municipal Rehabilitation and Economic Recovery Act (MRERA), which was mandated to initiate a major redevelopment effort for Camden. The Camden’s revitalization plan was a direct effort to approach the city’s poverty and unemployment issues at the highest level. For more than two decades, the State of New Jersey has funded a variety of initiatives aimed at spurring economic development and job creation in the City of Camden. A key empirical question arises, are the city and its residents really reaping the benefits of these initiatives and how do these efforts compare to those made in other similarly distressed municipalities in the state?

This paper hopes to accounts for the pronounced differences between Camden City and some of its comparable municipalities relative to their respective economic development trajectories; what forces have allowed other cities to redevelop at the same time that Camden continued its decline; what could Camden learn from other cities; what is Camden doing right or wrong?

We use public datasets to analyze all 565 NJ municipalities and 1996-2016 New Jersey Municipal Distress Index Rankings. We attempt to provide a detailed portrait of the underlying forces perpetuating distressed cities and provide the baseline for comparison between Camden and localities across the state.