General Business

NJ’s Quality of Life Index Dips in Urban Areas

More than 6 in 10 New Jerseyans continue to give positive ratings to their home state as a place to live. However, overall views of the state’s quality of life have dropped significantly among urban residents while remaining stable among suburbanites, according to the Monmouth University Poll.

Monmouth’s exclusive Garden State Quality of Life Index score now stands at +24, which is slightly lower than last year’s +27 rating. The index number had jumped to +37 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, but dropped back to +25 in 2021. In prior years, the index rating ranged between +18 and +31, with an outlying low point of +13 registered in February 2019. The current reading is near the midpoint of scores since Monmouth first started tracking the quality of life index in 2010.

Compared to a year ago, the index score for urban residents has dropped by 15 points (from +15 in April 2022 to 0 in January 2023), but has only declined by 2 points among those who live in stable growth towns (from +31 to +29) and has actually increased by 2 points among those in New Jersey’s growing suburbs (from +31 to +33). While a disparity between these community types has been evident throughout the history of the Garden State Quality of Life Index, the gap in the current poll is among the largest seen since the first reading in 2010. Similar gaps between index scores for urban areas and other communities were found in 2011, 2013, and 2015.

Larger than average drops in Monmouth’s index since last year have also occurred among New Jerseyans who make less than $50,000 a year (from +18 to +7), those age 55 and older (from +31 to +22), Black and Hispanic residents (from +23 to +15), and those who live in the Delaware Valley region (from +27 to +19).

“We always see some fluctuations in Monmouth’s Garden State Quality of Life Index, but it’s important for policymakers to take note when the views of different groups start to diverge this noticeably. A sense of unrest can develop from the perception that others are doing better than you,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The Garden State Quality of Life Index was created by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in 2010 to serve as a resident-based indicator of the quality of life offered by the state of New Jersey. The index is based on five separate poll questions: overall opinion of the state as a place to live – which contributes half the index score – and ratings of one’s hometown, the performance of local schools, the quality of the local environment, and feelings of safety in one’s own neighborhood. The index can potentially range from –100 to +100.

More than 6 in 10 New Jerseyans say the state is either an excellent (18%) or good (45%) place to live, while 25% say it is only fair and 12% rate the state as poor. The current positive rating of 63% is just below 64% in 2022 and above 59% in 2021. This number hit 68% in 2020, during the early days of the pandemic. The all-time high mark for the state as a place to live rating was 84% positive in February 1987. The record low was 50% in February 2019, but it improved to 61% by September of that year.

Turning to other metrics that make up the Garden State Quality of Life Index, more than 3 in 4 New Jerseyans rate their own town or city as an excellent (34%) or good (43%) place to live. The 77% positive hometown rating is slightly higher than recent polls (73% in 2022 and 76% in 2021).

The current poll registers ratings for local environmental quality at 78% positive – 30% excellent and 48% good, which is a couple points higher recent results (76% in both 2022 and 2021). School ratings stand at 60% positive – 19% excellent and 41% good – which is slightly lower than 63% in 2022 and 64% in 2021. The percentage of Garden State residents who currently feel very safe in their own neighborhoods at night stands at 64%, which is just slightly lower than 65% in 2022 and 67% in 2021.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from January 5 to 9, 2023 with 809 New Jersey adults. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 4.7 percentage points for the full sample. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch.

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