Young Adults Leaving NJ at Alarming Rates

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Where will New Jersey’s future workers come from? While the state’s aging workforce is reaching retirement age, young adults are leaving the state at an alarming rate, making the state’s already severe labor shortage even worse.

NJBIA has been working to alleviate New Jersey’s outmigration challenges so New Jersey businesses will have the workers they need in the future. But if these outmigration patterns continue, businesses will be unable to meet their employment needs, ultimately hurting businesses, their customers, and New Jersey’s economy.


 Outmigration of Young Adults. From 2007-2017, a total of 1,162,038 adults ages 18 to 34 (domestic and international) migrated out of New Jersey, while only 956,214 moved here, creating a net loss of 205,824. Higher inflow and lower outflow rates in the older subset of 25- to 34-year-olds reduces the overall net loss of young adults in New Jersey.

College-age adults, ages 18-24, accounted for nearly 60% of young adult outflow from New Jersey from 2007-2017, but only 36% of young adult inflow during the same time span. Nearly 671,000 college-age adults left New Jersey, while only 346,000 came here.

 First-time College Students. The numbers are particularly stark when looking at the recent trends among first-time college students. In 2016, more than 32,000 high school graduates from New Jersey went to college in another state while nearly 4,500 out-of-staters came here to go to school. In all, 43% of New Jersey high school graduates who go on to college do so in another state.

Those who stay in New Jersey graduate with an average $32,247 in student debt upon graduation, one of the highest rates in the nation.

Return on Investment. The large outmigration of young adults results in a poor return on investment for New Jersey and its taxpayers, who spent on average of nearly $21,000 per pupil for K-12 education in the 2016-2017 school year. While that’s among the highest costs in the nation, New Jersey students on the whole receive one of the finest K-12 educations available. If students leave the state upon high school graduation, the return on that investment is lost.

In addition to the state’s ROI, young adults are a particularly important demographic because they are our future workforce and future economic contributors. When a young adult chooses to leave and begin postsecondary education or enter the workforce in another state, New Jersey’s chances of having that individual migrate back is slim.

Outmigration to this extent robs New Jersey of its future workforce, squanders taxpayers’ investment in K-12 education, and threatens the state’s reputation of having a highly educated workforce.

To reverse this trend, New Jersey must become more affordable and must do a better job of marketing its post-secondary educational opportunities both for in-state high school graduates and those across the country.

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