Meet the Neighbors: Organizational and Spatial Dynamics of Immigrant New Jersey


New Jersey has always ranked among the top destinations for US-bound immigrants. Today only California and New York can count larger shares of non-natives. The current era dates roughly to the mid-1980s, when global and domestic politics, natural disasters, economic dislocation and the ballooning of the US service sector empowered a new generation to pick up and move. Between 1990 and 2010, as the number of immigrants doubled (from just under 19 million people to almost 40 million) New Jersey experienced a proportionate change from 967,000 people in 1990 to more than 1.8 million in 2013.

Significantly, though these contemporary immigrants came from new source nations and brought with them different skills and challenges, and though they have arrived on a scale unprecedented in the history of the US, the federal government has not, as yet, addressed these changes with a comprehensive reform of the nation’s immigration policy.

Absent comprehensive reform, sizable growth and demographic change have wrought a complex set of circumstances in communities nationwide. This report measures and characterizes the new reality in just one state. When comprehensive federal reform does carry the day, these data will be available to guide implementation. Arguably, the stakes have never been higher.

At least six salient features in the current landscape of immigrants in New Jersey merit attention.

  • A Global Shift in Source Countries
  • New Destinations, South and to the Suburbs
  • Unmet Language Needs
  • High Concentration of Undocumented Workers
  • Dense Concentration of Skilled Foreign Workers
  • Community-Based Infrastructures Under Strain

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