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Census 2010

A Look at the
First Data Wave

James W. Hughes  Joseph J. Seneca
By James W. Hughes, Dean
& Joseph J. Seneca, University Professor,
Edward J Bloustein School of Planning
and Public Policy at Rutgers University
artistic rendering of upward pointing bar graph with various colors of plastic people

The 2010 Census population totals for congressional redistricting were released this past February, enabling us to paint an initial census portrait of New Jersey. And the first brushstrokes show, not surprisingly, a population that has been growing very slowly.

During the past decade (2000-2010), the state’s population grew by 377,544, persons or 4.5 percent. This represents a dramatic slowdown from the pace of the preceding decade (1990-2000), when the state’s total population grew by 684,162 persons or 8.9 percent.

hus, the rate of growth was essentially halved (4.5 percent versus 8.9 percent). The contrast with the nation is equally stark. The 2010 Census revealed that the United States had its slowest decade population growth rate, 9.7 percent, since the Great Depression. Still, the nation’s growth rate was more than double that of New Jersey (9.7 percent versus 4.5 percent). In both cases, the slowdowns resulted from falling international immigration, first due to aftereffects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and then the aftershocks of the 2007-2009 Great Recession. New Jersey’s greater slowdown was largely due to substantial population outmigration losses to other states.

As a result of its lagging 2000-2010 population growth, New Jersey will lose a seat in Congress. This is consistent with the state’s longer-term below-average population growth. In 1970, the state had 15 congressional seats. The number fell to 14 following the results of the 1980 Census, to 13 after the 1990 Census, and now to 12 after the 2010 Census. New Jersey’s “clout” in Washington, at least based on the number of seats in Congress, continues to contract.

But New Jersey’s overall slow population growth masks substantial intrastate variations. In general, South Jersey grew faster than North Jersey. The more mature, high-density northeastern portion of the state had the slowest rate of growth, while parts of the southern half of the state grew even faster than the nation.

The two most rapidly growing counties in New Jersey—Gloucester (+13.2 percent) and Ocean (+12.8 percent)—are in the South. Thus, population growth pressures are still a reality in many parts of the state.

Consider the two fastest-growing municipalities in Gloucester County. The population of Woolwich Township more than tripled (+236.4 percent), jumping from 3,032 persons in 2000 to 10,200 persons in 2010, while the population of East Greenwich Township grew by 76.0 percent, increasing from 5,430 persons in 2000 to 9,555 persons in 2010. In Ocean County, the municipal growth leader was Lakewood Township, which had the largest absolute population increase in the state (32,491 persons, or 53.8 percent). As a result, Lakewood, with an expanding Orthodox Jewish population, became the seventh largest municipality in the state in 2010, up from a 22nd place ranking in 2000.

NJ Polulation Change by race-ethnicity 2000-2010

There are also rapidly growing municipalities in the central and northern portions of New Jersey. For example, West Amwell Township, in rural-suburban Hunterdon County, grew by 61.1 percent, while Edgewater Borough, in heavily developed Bergen County, grew by 50.0 percent. So, growth is still occurring in a variety of locations and under special conditions. For example, the City of Newark, whose population peaked in 1950 at 439,000 persons, had experienced five straight decades of decline through 2000, when its population bottomed at 273,546 persons. But between 2000 and 2010, its population grew by 1.3 percent to 277,140, the result of a sharp increase in housing production and international immigration.

The 2010 Census also reveals that the racial-ethnic makeup of the state is changing rapidly despite overall slow population growth. Over 100 years ago, New Jersey was a gateway for the first immigration wave to the United States, a wave that was largely European. New Jersey is still a gateway, now for the second great immigration wave to the United States—a wave that is largely Hispanic and Asian. The foreign born now account for one out of five New Jerseyans. For a second time, the state’s population is being transformed, both racially and ethnically. While New Jersey’s total population increased by 4.5 percent (377,544 persons) between 2000 and 2010, its white (non-Hispanic) population declined by 6.2 percent (-343,331 persons). Concurrently, the black or African American (non-Hispanic) population grew by only 29,230 persons (2.7 percent). This decline and slow growth were the result of substantial outmigration losses to other states, particularly so in the case of whites.

In contrast, the 2010 Census revealed explosive growth of Asians (non-Hispanic) and Hispanics (of any race). Asians had the highest rate of population growth (50.9 percent, or 242,815 persons), while Hispanics had the largest absolute growth (437,953 persons, or 39.2 percent). The combined growth of Asians and Hispanics (680,768 persons) was more than 23 times the modest 29,250-person gain of blacks (non-Hispanic), and was nearly twice the size of the white (non-Hispanic) losses (-342,331 persons).

Census 2000 first revealed that, in absolute population size, Hispanics had just surpassed blacks as the state’s largest minority group by 21,020 persons (1,117,191 versus 1,096,171). Ten years later the gap widened significantly. The 2010 Census indicated that there were 429,743 (or 38.2 percent) more Hispanics than blacks (1,555,144 versus 1,125,401). The largest concentrations of Hispanics in 2010 were in northeastern New Jersey, led by Hudson County (267,853 persons), Passaic County (185,677 persons), and Essex County (159,117 persons). The largest concentrations of Hispanics in the state’s most populous municipalities were in the cities of Newark (93,746 persons), Paterson (84,254 persons), Elizabeth (74,353 persons), and Jersey City (68,256 persons).

NJ Polulation Distribution by race-ethnicity 2000 and 2010

This changing ethnic makeup is not confined to the older cities of the Northeast but is fast transforming the entire state. Gloucester County in the southern part of New Jersey, the state’s fastest-growing county (+13.2 percent), saw its Hispanic population more than double (+108.3 percent) between 2000 and 2010, led by East Greenwich Township, whose Hispanic population nearly quadrupled (+280.3 percent). The Hispanic populations of two northwestern counties bordering the Delaware River also nearly doubled. Hunterdon County and Sussex County both had a 99.4 percent increase in their Hispanic populations. Experiencing the highest Hispanic growth rates in Hunterdon were West Amwell Township (+994.1 percent)—albeit from just 17 Hispanics in 2000 to 186 in 2010—and the City of Lambertville (+217.5 percent). The Sussex County increase was led by the Town of Newton (+215.3 percent).

So, the 2010 Census reveals continuing demographic change throughout New Jersey. This will become increasingly evident when more detailed data are released in the months ahead.

James W. Hughes is Dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.
Joseph J. Seneca is University Professor of Economics at the Bloustein School.
First published in New Jersey Municipalities, Volume 88, Number 4, April 2011


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