The population of New Jersey, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is now 8.96 million -- and 1 in 5  of these Garden State residents were born in other countries.

The Immigration Policy Center reports there 1.9 million immigrants now living in this state.

According to Janice Fine, an associate professor of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University, the top three countries of origin of the foreign born in New Jersey are India, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

“What’s really interesting about New Jersey’s ethnic makeup is that there’s not one super dominant group. There are a lot of different ethnic groups that make up the state,” she said.

 

“Most urban cities in New Jersey are high density centers of immigrant population, but several counties also stand out as having significant populations [throughout],” she said.

  • Hudson County has the highest immigrant population with about 52,000 immigrants.
  • Middlesex County has about 42,000.
  • Bergen County has slightly more than 31,000.
  • Essex County has 29,500.
  • Union County has 20,750.

 

So why do immigrants wind up where they do?

“Hudson County was an early settlement for Cubans who fled after Castro came to power, and that provided a base that was built upon over the subsequent decades," said James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. "As Cubans have moved out, other Latino groups have moved in.”

He explained Asians settling in Middlesex County “is really linked to the pharmaceutical industry and the telecommunications industry, where the big companies recruited talent from India and Asia in the 60s, 70s and 80s.”

Creating communities

Hughes noted many Korean businesses established their U.S headquarters either in New York or Bergen County. And “the executives love the community they’re living in. Education is very important to them and they want their kids to go to the good school systems.”

“It’s a very human story, it’s about people migrating to places where they have family or have social networks. That’s the easiest way to find places to stay, to find work and get acclimated to your new country,” said Fine.

“Once the initial ethnic group, once the initial pioneers are in place, then it becomes much easier for later groups of those same immigrants to come and settle there.”

She noted Bound Brook in Somerset County used to have the highest concentration of Costa Ricans in the country as a result of "chain migration.”

She pointed out the fastest growing group of immigrants over the past couple of years in New Jersey are Latinos, with Mexicans leading the way.

“Dominicans are close behind then Columbians. There’s a lot of Ecuadorians, a significant number of Peruvians and Cubans.”

Powering the economy

Fine believes what’s so inspiring about New Jersey is that it is a true melting pot.

“New Jersey has always been an immigrant destination, but there was a huge push during the 1990s and 2000s and foreign born workers have been incredibly important to New Jersey’s economic development,” she said.

“More than 40 percent of chemists, nursing aids, physicians and janitors are all foreign born," she said. "Over 40 percent of the state’s scientists and engineers are foreign born, and foreign born entrepreneurs own 1 out of 5 New Jersey businesses.”