New Jersey Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Because of New Jersey’s location next to New York Harbor, the state historically drew many immigrants entering the United States through its main port of entry. This pattern has continued into the twenty-first century, as new immigrants have arrived at Newark, New Jersey’s, and nearby New York City’s international airports. The state’s earliest immigrants were mostly from Europe; by the end of the twentieth century, New Jersey was one of the top-ranking states in percentages of immigrants from Mexico, China, and the Philippines, and it was also welcoming significant numbers of Asian Indians.

One of Great Britain’s original North American colonies, New Jersey drew its earliest immigrants from England. Many of them were Quakers and Baptists seeking religious freedom. After the United States achieved its independence, the heaviest influx of European immigrants into New Jersey began arriving during the 1840’s. Later, Irish immigrants;New JerseyIrish immigrants came as laborers. Possessing the advantage of already speaking English, they quickly became prominent in political life and would eventually come to dominate the governments of such major cities as Jersey City, Trenton, and Paterson. German immigrants;New JerseyGerman immigrants were slower to arrive, but by 1890 there were about 120,000 foreign-born Germans settled in New Jersey. They were prominent as craftsmen and established reputations as skilled glassmakers and woodworkers. Many Italian immigrants;New JerseyItalian immigrants relocated from New York City to New Jersey. Others came directly from Italy and worked as farmers in the rural southern portion of the state. Over time, however, many of these people gravitated to industrial cities such as Trenton andNewark.New JerseyNew Jersey[cat]STATES;New Jersey[03840]

Modern Trends

By the turn of the twenty-first century, New Jersey had one of the richest mixtures of world cultures in the United States, with people from nearly one hundred different nations speaking more than 165 different languages. In 2009, an advisory panel on the state’s immigrant policy reported that fully 20 percent of the state’s 8.7 million residents were foreign born, and most of these people had entered within the previous twenty years. About 46 percent of the foreign-born residents were Latin Americans, 30 percent were Asians, 18.6 percent were Europeans, and 4.5 percent were Africans. The largest single national group among the foreign-born New Jersey residents were Asian Indian immigrants;New JerseyAsian Indians, who constituted almost 10 percent of the immigrant population. They were followed by immigrants from Mexico, China, the Philippines, and Colombia, in that order.

The advisory report also noted that New Jersey has a comparatively high rate of naturalization among its immigrant communities. In 2006, 48 percent of its foreign-born residents were naturalized citizens. Although immigrants as a whole were more likely than native-born Americans to live in poverty, naturalized immigrants were less likely to live in poverty than natives. The advisory report did not deal at length with the subject of Illegal immigration;New Jerseyillegal immigration but noted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimate of approximately 430,000 undocumented immigrants in New Jersey.

Among other findings of the advisory report on immigration was the fact that one-third of all children in New Jersey were members of families with at least one foreign-born parent. Consequently, the state needed more instruction in English as a second language and more resources for preschool children.

Several positive factors were noted in the report. Immigrants were less likely than native-born New Jersey residents to be incarcerated or on public assistance. Immigrants were also more likely to be employed, although they generally received lower wages. Scientists;in New Jersey[New Jersey]More than 40 percent of the state’s scientists and engineers with higher degrees were foreign born, as were Medical professionals;in New Jersey[New Jersey]medical professionals. Without these foreign-born professionals New Jersey would face serious shortages.New Jersey

Further Reading
  • Fleming, Thomas J. New Jersey: A Bicentennial History. New York: W. W. Norton, 1977.
  • Green, Howard L., ed. Words That Make New Jersey History: A Primary Source Reader. Piscataway, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2006.
  • Mappen, Mark. Jerseyana: The Underside of New Jersey History. Piscataway, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1992.
  • Montalto, N. One of the Many: Integrating Immigrants in New Jersey. Washington, D.C.: National Integration Forum, 2006.

Alien land laws

Brazilian immigrants


German immigrants

Irish immigrants

New York State

Political parties

Statue of Liberty

Transportation of immigrants

Categories: History