Last month, the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University published a study that confirmed in one region what many city-watchers have been seeing nationally for years: people, particularly the young, are moving back toward the urban core of metropolitan regions, with New York City a prime example of this historic population shift. Their study reports observations that in 12 of the furthest flung counties in the 27 county region region that surrounds the city, the population has contracted while older, inner ring communities are seeing population increases.
The various merits of this trend aside, I was curious to see if I could build a map of municipal gains and losses in South Jersey that accompanied the study for the New York metropolitan area. I eventually found data at both the municipality and county levels from 1980 through 2013 thanks to the websites of the federal census and the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
The first thing that’s obvious is that the picture is a little noisier for South Jersey than it is for New York; whereas the northwestern most counties of the state are largely remote forestlands, the counties at the extreme of the Philadelphia region of South Jersey are home to a large part of the state’s tourism industry. To that end, the map I came up with is best for examining the microtrends in particular regions. For instance, in that shore town tourist region, you can see a sharp shift from population gains to losses over a 23 year period. Sandy seems to have played a leading role in the depopulation of South Jersey shore towns in the later half of the decade, while the affects of failing Atlantic City’s dominating the numbers over in the last few years:
Closer to Philadelphia, you can see a slower, though apparent, trend of older, inner-ring communities in northern Camden County slowing their losses at the turn of the century, while more southern, post-war suburbs in the county start to feel their population numbers slip:
At the county level, most of the region was doing fairly well up until 2010, with decline in the tourist areas in Cape May County, the southernmost counties of Salem and Cumberland Counties, and the southern areas of Camden County all registering as county-wide loses. Of particular interest in the coming years will be what Atlantic County’s numbers look like after Atlantic City’s huge job losses suffered just in 2013 alone.
To visit the map for yourself and see the numbers your community, visit http://thegreengrass.net/south-jersey-population.
Edit: On November 26th, the map was updated to include municipal population data from 1980 to 1990.