Interactive Map: New Jersey, Flush with Baby Boomers

New census data show increase in older population, influx of young families in Hudson River communities but declining population in farthest suburbs

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New Jersey’s population continued to get older, even as it only inched higher, between 2017 and 2018, presenting planners, government officials and school leaders with a host of challenges.

New data released by the U.S. Census Bureau today estimate that the median age in the state rose to 40, at the same time as the percentage of people age 65 and older rose by 2.2 percent year-to-year and is more than 21 percent higher than during the last official census in 2010.

The increase in New Jersey seniors is not surprising given that close to half the baby-boom generation is now 65 or older. But the data also show that the number of children under age 18 continued to decline and was 5.4 percent lower in 2018 than in 2010.

“The decline in the number of young people has places like Hunterdon and Sussex counties almost moving into the school-closing business,” said James Hughes, a Rutgers University professor who is the former dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.

But that’s not true statewide. While population has declined in the farthest suburbs and southwest Jersey, it has been increasing in the Northeast — Hudson, Bergen and Union counties, in particular — and booming in some municipalities. Harrison, for instance, has grown by almost a third, and Secaucus by close to 28 percent. Both communities are in Hudson County.

A different kind of boom

Hughes said school districts along the Hudson River waterfront in particular have seen “strong enrollment growth” as couples have moved their young families out of Manhattan to raise their children in less crowded and less expensive communities.

The increasing senior population has implications, as well, particularly given that so many aging boomers have chosen not to move out of state but instead to stay near their children and grandchildren and near their trusted doctors and medical facilities.

“What happens when all these older people living in car-dependent places can’t drive anymore?” asked Tim Evans, director of research at New Jersey Future and author of a 2014 report that examined the problem of aging boomers living in the suburbs. “Will they be able to move into more walkable places? Will there be appropriate housing stock — affordably priced — that will allow them to do so if they decide they want to? Will they expect society to pay the additional costs of them continuing to live where they’ve been living and foot the bill for their additional transportation costs?”

New Jersey is not the only state that is aging. Nationally, the median age rose by one year between 2017 and 2018 to 38.2 years. But New Jersey is the 10th oldest state in the nation, in terms of median age. At 44.9 years, Maine is the oldest.

“The nation is aging — more than 4 out of every 5 counties were older in 2018 than in 2010,” said Luke Rogers, the chief of the population estimates branch at the census bureau. “Along with this general aging trend, we also see variation among race and ethnicity groups both in growth patterns and aging.”

Increasing diversity

New Jersey’s population continued to diversify in 2018, with the ranks of Hispanics, Asians and African Americans all increasing. The largest increase was for Hispanics, whose numbers increased by more than 18 percent between 2010 and 2018 to comprise more than 1.8 million of the estimated 8.9 million Jerseyans. The population of non-Hispanic whites continued to decline, dropping by close to 7 percent over the same period.

Last year, about 55 percent of the state’s residents were non-Hispanic whites. About 13 percent of the population was black, roughly the same proportion as in 2010, while Asians comprised close to 10 percent, up from about 8 percent eight years earlier. In 2018, more than two of every 10 New Jersey residents were Hispanic. Between 2017 and 2018, the state’s Hispanic population grew by 2.2 percent, the same as the in nation as a whole.

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