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Latino and Asian immigrants pump nearly $100 billion into NJ economy

Click the image to check out our interactive map. See where your town's immigrants come from.
Click the image to check out our interactive map. See where your town’s immigrants come from.

Almost 2 million immigrants now call New Jersey home.

They fill highly skilled jobs in the pharmaceutical industry. And also low-level jobs like cooking and cleaning in restaurants.

In all, immigrants contribute billions of dollars into the state’s economy.

According to Janice Fine, a professor of labor studies, immigration and employment relations at Rutgers University, Latin Americans make up about 34 percent of all foreign- born immigrants in the Garden State, while Asians make up about 30 percent.

“In many states, one particular group of immigrants will dominate the foreign-born population. However in New Jersey, we have very significant shares of Latin Americans, of Asians, Europeans and Africans,” she said.

In New Jersey, 9.7 percent of immigrants are from India, 5.7 percent come from Mexico and 5.7 percent hail from the Dominican Republic.

Click here to see our interactive map of where every town’s immigrants come from.

Fine notes that immigrant populations in many parts of the Garden State continue to expand.

She explained many immigrants that come to New Jersey for economic reasons because there’s a tremendous demand “for engineers and computer scientists and physicists at the top of the labor distribution.”

Fine added, “More than 40 percent of New Jersey’s chemists and physicians are foreign born, and over 40 percent of our scientists and engineers are foreign born, and 1 out of 5 New Jersey businesses are owned by foreign born entrepreneurs.”

James Hughes, a Rutgers University professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of planning and public policy, pointed out that “a lot of Asian immigrants were drawn here by the pharmaceutical industry, particularly pharmaceutical research, so they’ve been a presence in Middlesex, Somerset for a very, very long time.”

Only 2 NJ towns don't have any immigrants — See the 'Melting Pot' map

He said New Jersey also has many immigrant workers with no specialized training.

“Whether it’s restaurant employment, when it’s car wash employment, many lower level jobs are filled by immigrants,” he said.

Fine pointed out Latinos and Asians in New Jersey “wield about $92.3 billion in consumer purchasing power. The businesses that they owned in New Jersey had sales and receipts of $40 billion, and employed more than 160,000 people at last count.”

“In 2014, the purchasing power of New Jersey’s Latinos totaled $46 billion, which was an increase of 415 percent since 1990, and Asian buying power totaled $46.3 billion, an increase of 72 percent since 1990.”

Hughes agreed New Jersey’s economy is now heavily dependent on immigrants, with almost a quarter of the population born in a foreign country, and “when you look at young people, it’s a much higher proportion, and so that’s the labor force of the future that New Jersey’s going to have to depend upon.”

Mapping where NJ immigrants live

Zoom in and click on a town to see how many immigrants make up the population. The brighter the red, the greater the percentage of foreign-born residents. Map is best viewed on a desktop computer or on our app. The map is based on Census population estimates, so numbers may not be exact.

Source: U.S. Census 2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-year estimates

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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