Newark Remains NJ’s Largest City, 2020 Census Data Shows

“We are pleased to remain New Jersey’s largest city and top the 300,000 population mark," said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. "However, the most important results of the 2020 Census are not if our city is the largest in New Jersey, but that our increasing number of residents – regardless of whether or not they were counted – receive every resource we need to take care of our diverse community and deliver vital services, particularly as we continue to be impacted by COVID-19.

“We could not have done this without our residents, and I am grateful for their commitment even in the midst of a pandemic. I also sincerely appreciate Deputy Mayor Jacqueline Quiles for leading our efforts, as the US Census in Newark was a partnership between federal, state, and county agencies, many non-profits, and our municipal team, who went into our neighborhoods and worked with all of our residents to get the most accurate count possible," said Baraka.

“It’s a big deal for Newark to continue to be the state’s largest municipality,” said North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos. “There are federal funds that are allocated based on census data. The city will go through the legislative redistricting process, and the fact that Newark continues to be the largest city will help to ensure that we have representation both at the state and federal level. It’s a lot of positives.” 

At its peak, Newark’s population in the 1930 census reached 442,337 residents. Starting in 1960, the city’s population began a steady decline. Between 1960 and 1990, the city lost about 130,000 residents. Newark wouldn’t experience an uptick in residents again until 2010, when the city’s population increased by nearly 3,600 people from the year 2000. 

Newark’s demographics have also drastically changed in previous decades. Right around the turn of the century, industrialization saw a major uptick in residents flooding north Jersey communities. During the construction of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System, white residents flooded Newark’s suburbs made up of predominantly Italian, Irish, Polish and Jewish communities. 

In 1950, white residents made up roughly 83% of Newark’s population while Black residents made up about 17% of the population. In the following decades, longtime Newark resident and social justice leader, Lawrence Hamm, said the city would see a rise in the African American population.

A reason for the decline in white residents can be tied to years of civil unrest in the late 1960s.  But even before the 1967 rebellion, Hamm said that the mass exodus of white residents had already begun. 

After World War II, many Blacks moved from the South into cities like Newark. As real estate professionals claimed land would lose its value, Hamm said, Black residents were redlined into the Third Ward (now the Central Ward), denying residents of services like loans or insurance because they lived in an area deemed to be at “poor financial risk.” 

“They were writing disparaging things in magazines about Newark even in the 1930s,” said Hamm. “Businesses were already exiting.”  

Although the civil unrest would exacerbate the exodus of many white residents, Newark’s Black residents would soon see more representation in local government. 

“By the 1960s, Newark was an apartheid city because the population was predominantly Black, but it was controlled by a white minority,” said Hamm. 

The first breakthrough for Black representation in Newark’s local government, Hamm said, was sparked by the election of Irvine Turner. In 1954, Turner became the first elected black official from Newark and served three terms on the city council.

As more white residents left the city in the late 1960s, everything changed when Kenneth A. Gibson was elected in 1970 as the first black mayor of a major city to the first of four terms. In 1974, Newark had finally gotten a majority Black city council.

Today, census data shows that Newark’s population is predominantly Black, encompassing more than 50% of its population while white residents in Newark represent about 28% of the population. 

Also, on the rise in Newark is its Hispanic population, which has increased rapidly in previous decades. In 2010, about 34% of Newark residents were Hispanic, representing an 8% percentage point increase from 1990. 

One reason Newark saw a rise in its Hispanic population, particularly among Puerto Rican residents, can be traced back to the 1950s and 60s. During that time, the Puerto Rican government initiated Operation Bootstrap, which sought to industrialize and modernize the economy of the island. The operation caused a shift of employment from agriculture to manufacturing and a shift of the rural population to the towns and cities of Puerto Rico. 

“You saw a lot of Puerto Ricans on the island look to the United States for opportunities,” said city councilman Ramos. “There were things happening on the island that led to a number of Puerto Ricans to look to the United States, the mainland, as a potential place of residency and growth for their families.” 

Ramos explained that his father came to Long Island in 1959 and eventually came to Newark in 1963 through relatives who had picked the Brick City as their home.

Today, Hispanic residents in Newark now outnumber white residents, representing nearly 36% of the city’s population, respectively.

“It shows that Newark continues to emerge as a diverse community,” said Ramos. 

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-08-13 03:03:49 -0700