More Hughes and Seneca today in the Ledger:
New Jersey, with 1,173 people per square mile, is the mostly densely populated state. Thus future population growth, without adequate infrastructure, portends increased crowding, costs and congestion. Or perhaps not.
There is a distinct possibility that population growth will not be of the magnitude forecast. In fact, there are signs that it won’t.
Annual population growth in the state recently has slowed significantly. In fact, it has fallen steadily year by year from 71,000 people in 2002 to 33,000 in 2005. Net immigration from abroad into New Jersey has been declining, while net migration from New Jersey to the rest of the country has been increasing. In 2002, nearly 24,000 more people moved out of the state to the rest of the country than moved into the state from the rest of the country.
By 2005, almost 57,000 more people left New Jersey for the rest of the country than moved here, more than double the out migration of three years earlier. If this trend continues, future population growth will be more on the scale of the 1970s, when the state grew by 194,000 people, and the 1980s, when the state’s population rose by 365,000.
This shifting demographic pattern is paralleled, and perhaps caused, by conditions in New Jersey’s economy, which is now beset by below-national growth rates, tepid gains in high-paying job sectors, the erosion of our core science and technology assets and the high costs of housing. So we may not have such a congested future after all.
Demographic and economic growth appears to be slowing in reaction to our reduced capacity to accommodate growth. In turn, this creates its own set of problems, such as diminished economic opportunity, stagnant markets and decreasing ability to afford New Jersey’s extraordinarily high costs of living.
Never before has New Jersey faced a period of such limited infrastructure capacity additions. It is now time for a sustained public policy discussion about the crucial issues of infrastructure needs, population growth and our economic future.