Rutgers Study Shows Urban Areas Continue to Grow in “New Demographic Normal”

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A study released by Rutgers University's Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy show that Middlesex County continues to grow, as part of a massive population shift taking place across the New York Metro area.

The study plots the changes in population between 2010 and 2013, and compares them with trends from 1950 to 1980. 

Between 1950 and 1980, Middlesex County saw its population increase of an additional 331,021 residents.   Between 2010 and 2013, the county saw a further increase of 17,653 residents. 

The population shifts reflect a growing national trend of declining suburban areas with some urban areas on the rebound. 

"By 1980, the suburban ring's 11.0 million people was over 20 percent greater than the core's 9.0 million people", the study reads. 

Semi-suburban counties, or ones with a significant rural sector, have seen a decline in their populations between 2010 and 2013. Some of these counties include Mommouth, Sussex, Warren and Hunterdon. 

New Brunswick, like many cities during the latter half of the 20th century, saw either a decline in their populations, or a halt to their population growth.  Between 1960 and 1991, New Brunswick's population saw a minimal growth of about 1,500 residents.

"It looked like it was doomed for the most part," said James Hughes, Dean of the Bloustein School and an author of the study.  "It looked like a no-man's land".

The historic population shifts away from urban areas are highlighted in the study as an attempt to "escape from inner-city turmoil, crime, poverty, failing schools, deteriorating public transit, ever-higher taxes, aand recurring fiscal crises."

In the what the study calls a "new demographic normal," New Brunswick saw a population growth of roughly 1,300 people between 2010 and 2013, roughly the same amount of growth the city experienced in the 60's, 70's, and 80's combined.

"New Brunswick has been transformed in that the growth-sectors are the foreign-born populations, and young people in their 20's and early 30's, and some empty-nesters, the baber-boomers that have moved into One Spring Street and the Heldrich Condiminiums," Hughes said. 

The growing demographic of off-campus Rutgers students, for example, was highlighted by Hughes as a recent trend, beginning soon after the 2008 recession.  It reflected a long line of youth that Hughes believes were fed up or simply bored of the surburbs, preferring walking, cycling, and mass transit to driving.

During the latter half of the 20th century, an ever-growing divide permeated between Rutgers University and the rest of New Brunswick.

"For the most part, students just avoided any interaction with the city.  New Brunswick was irrelevant to them."

The decision to move the Rutgers Bookstore from Records Hall to Ferren Mall, for example, proved to be unpopular among the student body. 

Like many others within New Brunswick, Dean Hughes threw in his own opinion on the fate of Ferren Mall, which was closed for good over the last few years.  It is slated for demolition in the coming months.

"Anything will be better than that parking deck," Hughes lamented.  "Ferren Mall is a great site for development."

Reporter at New Brunswick Today

Award-winning, multimedia journalist with experience in digital first and print-media. Daniel has covered local, state and regional issues, and utilized photography, social media and has written in-depth articles to produce high-quality work.