Ranked 47th in size with an area of 8,729 square miles, New Jersey is a small, heavily populated state with a robust economy. New Jersey boasted a median household income of $67,034 in 2014, the third-highest in the nation. Eight of New Jersey's counties are among the wealthiest 100 in the country, and Hunterdon, Somerset and Morris counties all have median household incomes above $95,000, landing them in the top 10 nationwide.
New Jersey's advantageous position in the center of the Boston-New York-Washington corridor puts it in close striking distance of those major cities as well as Philadelphia and Baltimore. This favored location facilitated its rapid growth through the boom of the 1950s and beyond and to this day affords New Jersey a large and well-educated labor pool. 35% of state residents are college graduates, putting the state in the top five for undergraduate degrees nationwide. For graduate degrees, New Jersey ranks seventh.
Being within commuting distance of New York City and Philadelphia makes New Jersey real estate especially desirable. In 2015, the statewide median home value was $328,681, and the median rental price was $1,421. But commuting does have a price, as nearly 15% of New Jersey workers have an average commute of 60 minutes or more. About 500,000 people leave the state to work in New York City and Philadelphia every weekday.
New Jersey is known as the Garden State, but ironically it is the most urbanized state in the U.S. Approximately 90% of residents live in an urban area, and every New Jersey county is dense enough to be classified as a metropolitan area. Yet agriculture does continue in certain regions, including nursery stock, horses, vegetables, fruits and nuts, seafood and dairy products. Hammonton in the southern part of the state is called the “Blueberry Capital of the World,” with approximately 7,500 harvested acres dedicated to the famous crop.
In sharp contrast, New Jersey is also home to numerous chemical plants and major pharmaceutical firms, including Merck, Wyeth, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis and Pfizer. Significantly, the largest petroleum containment system outside of the Middle East is located in New Jersey, which is well-known for its abundance of oil refineries. In the wider business arena, 19 companies on the 2015 Fortune 500 list have headquarters in New Jersey. They include Prudential Financial, Honeywell International, Toys R Us, Campbell Soup and Quest Diagnostics.
The New Jersey economy has also benefited greatly from its tourism industry. Chief among New Jersey's attractions is the Jersey Shore with its 127 miles of coastline and numerous seaside resorts and beaches. They include family-friendly Ocean City; the reborn Atlantic City, with its casinos, amusement pier and longest boardwalk in the world at 5.75 miles; and Cape May, the oldest coastal resort in the U.S., which is home to charming Victorian gingerbread houses, the Cape May Bird Observatory and the annual World Series of Birding.
The New Jersey Pine Barrens of southern and central New Jersey, a unique biosphere, makes up 22% of the state’s land area. Uncommon soil conditions in this region support a diverse spectrum of plant life that goes beyond blueberries to include orchids, carnivorous plants and the rare pygmy Pitch Pines that depend on fire to reproduce. In western New Jersey, near the Pennsylvania border, a more rural landscape features the Delaware Water Gap, where the Delaware River traverses a large ridge of the Appalachian Mountains. The surrounding National Recreation Area offers rafting, canoeing, swimming, fishing, hiking and rock climbing.
New Jersey's population of over 8.8 million people makes it the 11th most populous state in the U.S., but with an average of 1,030 residents per square mile, it leads the country in population density. One of the benefits of density is diversity, however, as foreign-born individuals account for 21% of the population. The best known and largest immigrant ethnicity found in New Jersey is the Italians, who make up over 13% of the population.
New Jersey has produced a long list of noteworthy people, including five signers of the Declaration of Independence and inventor Thomas Edison, who made a major contribution to the New Jersey economy with his 1,093 patents. In the music and entertainment world, famous New Jerseyites include Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Jack Nicholson and Queen Latifah, among others. As for pop culture, who can forget Monopoly, the board game whose properties are named after the streets of Atlantic City?