Destination, New Jersey: How Immigrants Benefit State Economy


New Jersey’s immigrants are so essential to its economy that if you did the thought experiment of subtracting their work, you’d find that New Jersey itself would grind to a halt. Once concentrated in the state’s northern cities, today’s immigrants inhabit every corner of the state: From the Dominican journalist reporting in Jersey City, to the Indian chemist at her lab in Plainsboro; from the Italian deli-owner carving prosciutto in Montclair, to the Haitian father driving a taxi in Camden; from the Lebanese professor running her seminar at Princeton, to the Guatemalan teenager harvesting cranberries in the Pinelands: immigrants make New Jersey run.

According to the U.S. Census, 1.7 million of New Jersey’s 8.7 million residents were born outside the United States. Only New York and California have larger proportions of immigrants. While its share of immigrants has been rising since the 1970s, New Jersey saw the most rapid growth in its immigrant population between 1990 and 2000.

Most of the foreign born come to New Jersey seeking better lives for themselves and their children, primarily through work. Because of their relative youth, immigrants make up an even greater share of the workforce (28 percent) than of the general population (21 percent).

Immigrant workers hold every job imaginable. By and large, though, they are concentrated at the high and low ends of the education and earning ladder. Immigrants comprise 40 percent of the advanced degree holders statewide. Their specialized skills make them indispensable to New Jersey’s reputation as a center of innovation and technology…

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