In Defense of New Jersey, America's 48th Worst State (2024)

New Jersey, the place where I was raised. Where I ate water ice, where I went down the shore. Where I never pumped my own gas. Where I battled endlessly over the name of a discount breakfast meat. It is a state of boardwalks, a state of gardens, a state of pride—and according to a poll that made the rounds on Twitter last week, the 48th most unpopular state in the country. Wait, really? Worse than Delaware?, which surveyed 1,211 adults for a completely scientific and comprehensive study, ranked New Jersey below virtually every other state in the country besides Mississippi and Alabama. The site even made sure to remind readers that “New Jersey is often the butt of jokes, including for its occasional odor or for being the birthplace of the Jersey Shore franchise.” I can almost hear the sound of seagulls flocking as millions of readers from Jersey let out a collective SopranosOhh!

My exhaustion almost outweighs the outrage. Jersey natives are more than familiar with being picked last. Whether it’s the nickname “Dirty Jerz,” the eye-roll jokes in Hamilton (“Everything is legal in New Jersey”), or the way in which Saturday Night Live, year after year, delights in the Garden State’s outdated mob stereotypes, New Jersey residents have simply gotten used to this kind of abuse. And look, between our horrible drivers and Governor Chris Christie, I’ll admit we’re an easy target. (After all, I am the guy who made a video called "Trapped in the Quarantine with Your South Jersey Boyfriend.")

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Growing up in New Jersey, you’re always aware of the shiny skylines of Philly and Manhattan. Sure, they’ve got the skyscrapers. The sports teams. The cheesesteaks (more on that later). Even though we have breathtaking vistas like the Palisades, there’s no Grand Canyon in Jersey, no Mount Rushmore, no iconic tourist attractions, unless you count Lucy the Elephant in Margate, or the Evil Clown in Middletown. And yeah, so much of what you pass on the Jersey Turnpike appears to be bland emptiness: smog-billowing power plants, marshland, the “American Dream” Meadowlands complex that looks like a pile of DUPLO® blocks, and jughandles as far as the eye can see. Hell, we even have our own demon. But now that push has come to shove, I feel compelled to stand up for my native state. Despite its cartoonish reputation, Jersey is a place of legend.

In Defense of New Jersey, America's 48th Worst State (2)

The diving horse at Atlantic City’s Steel Pier, one of the many legends of New Jersey’s weird and fabled past.

I’m from South Jersey. Deep south—Haddon Township, to be exact. Wawa country. Down there, the almost mythological history of our state was alive everywhere. We lived close to Camden, one of those once-thriving cultural enclaves, like Newark, that you hear about in textbooks and Boardwalk Empire. The place was full of that Depression-era American lore. Walt Whitman famously lived there. (He wasn’t the only Jersey poet. Check out Adam Driver in Paterson for a loving ode to William Carlos Williams.) On the Waterfront, by the Adventure Aquarium, you’d hear about the Campbell Soup Company that fed the nation, and the RCA Victor factory where the phonograph was manufactured. Nearby was the actual boardwalk empire: Atlantic City, or what remains of it (thanks, Trump). My Grandmom went to see the big bands play there as a little girl. Frank Sinatra and Count Basie—both Jersey guys, born and bred—lit up those showrooms in their heyday. Sinatra said AC felt like “home.”

When I arrived on the campus of Rutgers—where the very first college football game occurred (Sorry Princeton, but Rutgers won)—Jersey became so much bigger to me. The university is up in the northern half of the state, near the Stairway to Heaven, closer to Newark, and not too far from Asbury Park, the rock music hotbed that gave the world Bruce Springsteen. Residents of Jersey will take any opportunity they can get to assure you that North and South Jersey are vastly different (and they’ll fight to the death over the existence of Central Jersey, too). They’re right. Up there, where Wawa becomes QuickCheck and pork roll becomes taylor ham, I realized that my whole conception of New Jersey was tiny. The state contains multitudes.

In Defense of New Jersey, America's 48th Worst State (3)

Sammy Davis Jr., Jerry Lewis, and Sinatra crooning in 1987 at Bally’s Grand Hotel in Atlantic City. Sinatra said AC felt like “home” for him.

For starters, Jersey is the most densely populated state in the U.S. In September 2020, Jersey ranked fourth in the most diverse states in the country, with Jersey City getting the title in 2021 as the most diverse city in the entire U.S. Because of Joe Pesci, because of Frankie Valli and the Jersey Boys, because of Sinatra, I think our state is seen as a breeding ground for Italian-Americans. And, sure, from Hoboken to Cape May, Jersey has always been full of descendants from the boot country (with the food to prove it too, damn it). But the state has more to offer than an Italian Hoagie (or cheesesteak, which Anthony Bourdain insisted was done better in Jersey than in Philly).

Jersey residents know, and CNN agrees, that the best Indian food in the country can be found in the Garden State, especially in South Asian communities like the one in Edison, New Jersey. On Bourdain’s visit to Jersey in Parts Unknown, the late travel host, who wasn’t born in Jersey but was raised there, called it “a cultural petri dish from which regularly issues forth greatness.” In that standout episode, he relishes in the fried clams in Long Beach Island, hot dogs at Hiram’s Roadstand in Fort Lee (Bourdain’s “antidote to every other place”), and, yes, salt water taffy in AC. I’m biased, but, for me, it’s his greatest episode, as the undervalued joys of our state seem to bring out some of Bourdain’s most profound observations: Speaking of Hiram, he says, “There’s not a lot of people in this world courageous enough to not change.” And of my home state, “To know Jersey is to love her."

In Defense of New Jersey, America's 48th Worst State (4)

Bruce Springsteen performing at the historic Stone Pony at Asbury Park, a place that still rocks today.

As a New York resident for almost a decade now, I suppose I’ve been away from home for about half as long as I lived there. And I don’t often miss it. When you grow up in the country’s punching bag, it’s only natural to want to leave. But sometimes when I close my eyes, my mind drifts to the sound of waves lapping, and there I am again, feet buried in the soft white sand of Brigantine, New Jersey, the Atlantic City skyline in the distance, my lips stained red from cherry water ice. Like so many Jersey natives, I’ve been self-hating about the place I was born for too long. But now? To quote a post from the official @NJGOV Twitter account: We don’t like you either.

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By the way, the Statue of Liberty? She’s a Jersey resident, too.

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In Defense of New Jersey, America's 48th Worst State (6)

Dom Nero

Senior Creative Producer

Dom Nero is a Senior Creative Producer at Esquire, where he also writes about film, tv, tech, and video games. Elsewhere, Dom hosts Eye of the Duck, a podcast about essential movie scenes.

In Defense of New Jersey, America's 48th Worst State (2024)


Why does NJ have a bad reputation? ›

There's the traffic, the endless tolls, high taxes and the occasional odor. Then there are the stereotypes fueled in part by HBO's mob drama "The Sopranos" and, of course, MTV's "Jersey Shore."

Is New Jersey a good place to move to? ›

Covering an area of only 8,722.58 square miles, New Jersey is one of the smallest states, yet has been ranked as the second wealthiest state in the United States, with a per capita income of $37,288, a fact that makes it one of the most desirable places to live.

Is New Jersey a good place to raise a family? ›

Recently, WalletHub ranked New Jersey in the top 10 states for raising families. As a matter of fact, the Garden State ranked #7 in their study. So, it's not just us, the experts think New Jersey is a great place to raise a family, too.

Why are people moving out of New Jersey? ›

People are leaving NJ for warmer, more affordable states.

In 2022, Americans moved to escape high-cost-of-living areas and to warmer climates with more reasonable housing options. This is the fourth year in a row NJ topped the list of states people were moving away from.

What are the main problem of New Jersey? ›

Taxes, fees, tolls

The combination of an increase in living, commuting, and doing business is hurting average people. Many NJ residents are still struggling to keep their job and/or the doors open on their business — it is one of the reasons we're still seeing a major exodus from the Garden State.

What is the safest state in NJ? ›

Sparta, NJ is the safest town in New Jersey according to Safewise. The crime rate, including the violent crime rate, is well below the national average.

Is New Jersey more Republican? ›

Since 1992, New Jersey has voted for Democrats in every presidential election. Bill Clinton won a plurality of New Jersey's popular vote that year, and a majority of New Jersey's popular vote in 1996.

What is the best state to live in NJ? ›

New Jersey Ranked 2nd Best State to Live in 2022: Study
Overall RankStateQuality of Life
2New Jersey7
3New York1
6 more rows
Aug 15, 2022

What is the most beautiful part of New Jersey? ›

1. Delaware Water Gap. This recreation area may technically be shared with another State (Pennsylvania), but both sides are spoiled with things to do in over 70,000 acres of stunning natural landscapes containing forest, vistas, streams and, of course, the winding Delaware River itself.

Where people in New Jersey are moving to most? ›

Top 5 Destinations New Jersey Residents Are Moving To

Philadelphia, PA. Sarasota, FL. Los Angeles, CA. Fort Lauderdale, FL.

How much money do you need to live comfortably in NJ? ›

Typical Expenses
0 Children0 Children
Required annual income after taxes$33,575$52,545
Annual taxes$5,335$7,617
Required annual income before taxes$38,910$60,162
7 more rows

What is the wealthiest town in New Jersey? ›

Alpine is located in Bergen County. According to Niche, Median Home Value is $2,000,001, above the National Average. Median Rent is $2,188, also above National Average. Population 1,336.

What is the richest City in New Jersey? ›

Short Hills
  • Short Hills is the richest town in New Jersey and one of the country's wealthiest, with a median household income of $250,000. ...
  • If you live in Short Hills, it's a bragging right. ...
  • Bergen County's Alpine has a reputation for luxury and privacy.
Nov 11, 2022

What salary is middle class in NJ? ›

Pew explains that a middle income equals an annual household income of $52,000 to $156,000 for a family of three, based on 2020 dollars.

What state are most people leaving? ›

Top states residents are leaving

The annual 2022 United Van Lines National Movers study is out! But it wasn't good news for New Jersey or New York. A similar report from United Van Lines showed New Jersey as the top outbound state, followed by Illinois, New York, Michigan, and Wyoming. The full list is below.

Is NJ losing population? ›

Largest population loss is in North Jersey

All three had population losses the prior year, according to estimates. The largest individual loss for 2021-22 was attributed to Essex County, with Bureau officials estimating a decline of nearly 4,650 residents.

What is the number one state everyone is moving to? ›

What States Are Americans Moving To? The most popular state people moved to in 2022 was Florida, while the state people most often moved from was California. Texas was the second-most popular state for Americans on the move, while North Carolina came in third.

Is NJ a stressful state? ›

To determine the states with the highest stress levels, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 41 key metrics. The data set ranges from average hours worked per week to the personal bankruptcy rate to the share of adults getting adequate sleep. Stress Levels in New Jersey (1=Most Stressed, 25=Avg.): 32nd – Avg.

Why is New Jersey stressful? ›

The highest sources of stress for New Jersey residents were money, followed by health and safety, family, and lastly, work-related stress. The top stressors for work were: hours worked per week, unemployment rate, and income growth rate.

What is the most common crime in NJ? ›

While the number of simple assaults may be quite high, the highest number of crimes is property offenses like theft.

What city in New Jersey has the lowest crime rate? ›

Safest Large Cities in New Jersey
RankCityCrime Score
4Old Bridge14.0
33 more rows

Is New Jersey safer than Florida? ›

When it comes to both crime rates and criminal charges, Florida has a higher percentage than New Jersey. Therefore, New Jersey is a safer place to live generally. However, Florida still has a lower crime rate than other states in the country.

Can I sue someone for recording me without my permission in New Jersey? ›

New Jersey Civil Charges

It is also possible to face civil legal charges when recording or videoing without consent. In New Jersey, this is considered a violation of the Invasion of Privacy Act.

What is the most Republican state? ›

However, it is important to note that Washington D.C. (while not a state) has 3 electoral votes and 76% of residents identify as Democrats, while 6% identify as Republicans. Wyoming was the most Republican state, with 59% of residents identifying as Republican, and only 25% of residents identifying as Democratic.

Is New York mostly Republican? ›

The Democratic Party holds the majority of public offices. Sixty-eight percent of registered voters in the city are Democrats. There are pockets of Republican strength in some sections of Brooklyn and Queens, and a large Republican stronghold in the more Suburban Staten Island.

What is the nicest town in New Jersey? ›

17 Best Towns in New Jersey
  • Cape May. Peaceful seaside town with classic Victorian flair. ...
  • Princeton. A college town bursting with historical charm. ...
  • Sparta. A historical town named the safest in New Jersey. ...
  • Bordentown. A quiet and unassuming location with small-town vibes. ...
  • Red Bank. ...
  • Toms River. ...
  • Spring Lake. ...
  • Phillipsburg.
Jun 5, 2023

What is the richest state in NJ? ›

Somerset, Morris and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey each are among the wealthiest counties in the U.S., according to 2016-2020 Census Bureau data.

Is NJ the most moved out state? ›

New Jersey is again one of the states with the most outbound moves, according to the annual North American Van Lines 2022 Migration Moving Report. While not at the top of the list, (that would be Illinois for the ninth year in a row), we're pretty close at #3. California is second.

What is the number one town in New Jersey? ›

Located in Mercer County, Princeton Junction, the highest-ranked NJ town on the list, received a grade of A+ from Niche. With a nice suburban feel, the landscape is dotted with parks and families flock here for the highly-rated schools.

Why is New Jersey so expensive? ›

New Jersey has some of the highest taxes in the U.S. It also has some very high home prices, driven in part by its proximity to New York City and its population density (the highest in the country).

Where are most Indians in New Jersey? ›

Bombay, in Jersey City, New Jersey, is home to the highest concentration of Asian Indians in the Western Hemisphere, containing the rapidly growing Indian ethnic enclave of India Square.

What is the fastest growing town in NJ? ›

Lakewood, which has been the fastest growing town in New Jersey for decades, retained its title. But seven other Ocean County towns, like Brick, Toms River and Jackson, also bucked state trends and experienced significant population growth.

Where do most Indians live in New Jersey? ›

Middlesex County has the country's highest concentration of Indians. In Edison and Iselin, Oak Tree Road, also known as “l*ttle India,” is the largest Indian business hub in the United States.

What is a good hourly wage in NJ? ›

$14.56 is the 25th percentile. Wages below this are outliers. $29.36 is the 75th percentile.

What is the average electric bill in New Jersey? ›

Monthly electric bills are a product of how much electricity you use per month and your electric rate. In New Jersey, the average monthly electric bill for residential customers is $155/month, which is calculated by multiplying the average monthly consumption by the average electric rate: 841 kWh * 18 ¢/kWh.

What is a good monthly income in NJ? ›

Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $27.95 an hour. This is equivalent of $1,117 a week or $4,844 a month. Most salaries in New Jersey range between $40,500 (25th percentile) to $74,143 (75th percentile) annually.

What is the poorest part of New Jersey? ›

Camden, the poorest city in the state, has a poverty rate of 35.5%. Other poor areas are the cities across the Hudson River from New York City, including Newark, Paterson, and Passaic.

What is the poor neighborhood in New Jersey? ›

TOP 10 "Poorest Towns" in New Jersey
  • Irvington Township.
  • Asbury Park.
  • Orange.
  • Bridgeton City.
  • Trenton.
  • Paterson.
  • Passaic City.
  • Newark City.
Mar 1, 2023

What is the poorest city in the state of New Jersey? ›

Among the 39 places in New Jersey with available data and populations of at least 25,000, Camden ranks as the poorest. The typical Camden household earns $28,623 a year, compared to the statewide median household income of $85,245.

What town in New Jersey has the most expensive homes? ›

5 Most Expensive Cities In New Jersey
  • Englewood Cliffs. Englewood Cliffs is a borough in Bergen County, one of the northernmost counties in New Jersey. ...
  • Palisades Park. Palisades Park is also a borough in Bergen County, but with a larger population of roughly 20,000. ...
  • Ridgefield. ...
  • Asbury Park. ...
  • Edgewater.

What is the richest zip code in NJ? ›

For several years, 07620 which is Bergen County's Alpine has been the most expensive zip in New Jersey.

Which millionaires live in Jersey? ›

Richest billionaires in New Jersey
  • #5. Duncan MacMillan. - Net worth: $1.7 billion (#1,733 wealthiest in the world) ...
  • #4. Larry Robbins. - Net worth: $1.9 billion (#1,544 wealthiest in the world) ...
  • #3. Peter Kellogg. - Net worth: $3.5 billion (#795 wealthiest in the world) ...
  • #2. John Overdeck. ...
  • #1. Rocco Commisso.
Apr 6, 2023

What salary is upper class in NJ? ›

Upper Class Salary in New Jersey:$54,714 - ZipRecruiter.

What is the top 1% in New Jersey? ›

New Jersey

The threshold to be a top 1% taxpayer in the Garden State is $825,965. For the top 5%, the lower limit sits at $338,884. New Jersey residents within the top 5% account for 55.60% of the state's income taxes, with the top 1% making up 33.58%.

What is the largest ethnic group in New Jersey? ›

Many towns in New Jersey have canceled their Columbus Day events. Some have proclaimed it Indigenous Peoples' Day, stemming from the false notion that Columbus was responsible for the slaughter of Native Americans.

Is it better to live in New York or New Jersey? ›

New York was actually best in quality of life and 2nd in safety, WalletHub found, but fell a little bit in education and health (16th). Both states finished on the lower end in economy (NJ was 39th, NY was 37th) and, unsurprisingly, affordability (NJ was 48th, NY was 46th).

Is New Jersey a better place to live than New York? ›

Some may say that living in New Jersey offers the best of both worlds. Homeowners can enjoy more affordable housing, lower taxes, and quick access to Lower Manhattan via public transportation, all while taking advantage of New Jersey's unique and vibrant nightlife.

Is New Jersey a happy place to live? ›

New Jersey scored an impressive 80.1 on the happiness scale, which put them at 6th place overall as the happiest state. New Jersey has the lowest suicide rate in the country with 7.1 deaths per 100,000 people.

What is the most relaxed US state? ›

Most people think of a sunny beach when they hear the word "relaxation," but recent data shows that South Dakota is the most relaxed state in the US.

Why are New Yorkers moving to NJ? ›

With more than 8.4 million people, living in NYC can be hectic, especially if you are on a budget or struggling with some basic needs. On the other hand, NJ is generally cheap, making it a favorable destination for many New Yorkers to relocate.

Is NY tax higher than NJ? ›

New Jersey income tax

The state income tax rate in New Jersey is 8.97%. It's lower than the state income tax rate in New York, which is 8.82%.

Is New Jersey more expensive than Florida? ›

The Cost of Living in Florida is Less Expensive Than NJ

Compared to New Jersey, Florida is far more economical when it comes to living expenses. With cheaper housing, groceries, utilities, and transportation, and no state income taxes, the cost to live here is quite reasonable.

Are New Yorkers moving to Jersey? ›

Most people who live here have noticed that we have an influx of people moving from New York to New Jersey, especially during the pandemic. And many don't realize that New York is one of those states that requires you to surrender your plates.

Is New Jersey cheaper than Florida? ›

While the cost of living in some of the state's larger cities like Miami, can be on the higher side, the majority of the state is very affordable compared to the national average. In fact, New Jersey comes in about 20% higher than Florida for overall cost of living expenses.

Why is it expensive to live in New Jersey? ›

New Jersey has some of the highest taxes in the U.S. It also has some very high home prices, driven in part by its proximity to New York City and its population density (the highest in the country).

What is the divorce rate in New Jersey? ›

New Jersey is very near the national average, with approximately 2.5 divorces per 1,000 couples as of the same year.

What state has the happiest people? ›

The happiest states in the US are Massachusetts, Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Minnesota, California, Hawaii, and Vermont.

Where does NJ rank in quality of life? ›

New Jersey ranks as the second-best state to live, according to a new report released by personal finance site WalletHub. In its annual report 2022's Best States to Live In, WalletHub factored in cost of living with job opportunities, quality of education and safety.


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