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The Top 10 Things You Should Know About New Jersey’s Demographic Changes and Immigration Politics

A Look at the State’s Emerging Communities of Color Before the Republican Primary

SOURCE: AP/ Marko Georgiev

Poll worker Edwan Hosario posts a sign on the door of the Jersey City Public Library for the New Jersey primary elections in Jersey City, New Jersey.

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In advance of New Jersey’s Republican primary tomorrow, here are 10 important facts about immigrants and people of color in the state that display their significant economic, cultural, and electoral power.

1. Communities of color are driving New Jersey’s population growth. From 2000 to 2010 the state’s Hispanic population grew by 39.2 percent, the African American population by 5.5 percent, and the Asian* population by 51.1 percent. The state’s population of whites, by contrast, decreased by 1.2 percent over the decade.

2. New Jersey has a large racial generational gap. As of January 2011 more than 50 percent of New Jersey’s children under age 18 are of color—almost 22 percent of children are Hispanic. By contrast, people of color comprise only 40.7 percent of the state’s entire population. This gap shows that people of color will make up an increasing portion of the state’s population in the future.

3. Voters of color make up a substantial share of New Jersey’s electorate. In 2008 voters of color cast nearly 29 percent of votes in the state. That year then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) took 78 percent of the Latino vote and 92 percent of the African American vote.

4. Close to half of New Jersey’s immigrants are naturalized citizens—meaning they are eligible to vote. In 2010, 50 percent of immigrants in the state were naturalized. Close to 19 percent of registered voters in New Jersey were either naturalized citizens or the U.S.-born children of immigrants.

5. New Jersey has even more potential voters that could play a role in the upcoming election. There are close to 300,000 eligible but unregistered Latino voters in the state, and 320,000 legal permanent residents are eligible to naturalize and vote for the first time in November—a substantial number of potential new voters.

6. As consumers, communities of color add billions of dollars to the state’s economy each year. In 2010 New Jersey’s Latinos had a total purchasing power of $39.3 billion, an increase of more than 300 percent since 1990. And the state’s Asian population had a buying power of $33.8 billion in 2010, an increase of more than 500 percent since 1990. 

7. As entrepreneurs, communities of color add thousands of jobs to the state’s economy. Asian-owned businesses in the state had sales and receipts of $29.9 billion and employed more than 115,000 people in 2007. The 68,374 Latino-owned businesses in the state had sales and receipts of $10.2 billion and employed more than 48,000 people that year.

8. Immigrants are essential to New Jersey’s economy as workers. In 2010 immigrants comprised 27 percent of the state’s workforce. In 2006 immigrants contributed more than $47 billion to New Jersey’s gross state product, and were more than 40 percent of New Jersey’s scientists and engineers with advanced degrees.

9. Immigrant residents of New Jersey excel academically and contribute to the state’s economy as students. More than a third of adult immigrants in the state—35.8 percent—had a bachelor’s or higher degree in 2010. In the 2009–10 academic year, New Jersey’s 14,246 foreign students and their families contributed $414.7 million to the state’s economy in tuition, fees, and living expenses.

10. Immigrants in New Jersey pay state and local taxes. The state’s undocumented immigrants paid $446.1 million in state and local taxes in 2010, including $81.3 million in property taxes.

Vanessa Cárdenas is Director of Progress 2050 and Angela Maria Kelley is Vice President for Immigration Policy and Advocacy at the Center for American Progress.

*We use the term Asian when referring to racial identification, such as Census Bureau data that distinguishes between race and ethnicity and collects information on all United States residents regardless of their nationality. We use the term Asian American when referring to community groups that self-identify as such to describe their national identity.

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