June 24, 2016: Languages Spoken at Home in New Jersey's Neighborhoods

In this week’s post, we will explore the different languages spoken at home in the neighborhoods of New Jersey. While not synonymous with foreign birth, speaking languages other than English at home can indicate the presence of individuals who immigrated to the United States at some time. According to the 2010-2014 5-year ACS, 30.3% of New Jersey’s population five years and older speak a language other than English at home.[i] New Jersey’s score ranks fourth out of fifty states and the District of Columbia, behind California, New Mexico, and Texas, but ahead of New York, Nevada, and Florida.

In states, counties, and communities across the country, rates of languages other than English being spoken at home are consistently higher than rates of foreign birth. This suggests that when foreign-born individuals immigrate to the United States, they not only continue to speak their native language at home, but they likely speak their language to their children, adding to the overall number and proportion of residents who speak other languages.

It is important to remember that speaking languages other than English at home does not determine one’s ability to speak English. In fact, well over half (59.1%) of New Jersey residents who speak a language other than English at home, speak English “very well.”[ii] The presence of bilingualism in the home is important, as studies have shown speaking two languages at home can not only have beneficial effects on cognitive development in children, but can also protect against cognitive decline in older age.[iii]

Figure 1 shows the prevalence of languages spoken at home throughout the state of New Jersey. Spanish is the most prevalent language, other than English, spoken at home in New Jersey, followed by Other Indo-European languages and Asian and Pacific Islander languages, respectively.

In the series of maps below, rates of the four most common languages spoken at home are shown for New Jersey neighborhoods. By observing the maps, some trends emerge regarding where certain languages are most commonly spoken. As would be expected, these trends closely resemble the geographic trends associated with the world region of birth of foreign-born residents. For instance, Asian and Pacific Islander languages are primarily spoken in tight concentrations of neighborhoods in central New Jersey and the extreme northeast corner of the state. Other Indo-European languages are spoken throughout more widespread neighborhoods of central and northern New Jersey. The presence of Spanish, the most widespread non-English language, is concentrated in the urbanized neighborhoods of northeast New Jersey in Essex, Hudson, Union, and Passaic Counties, in the other major cities of Trenton and Camden, and in some portions of the extreme southern parts of the state. 

Filter by town and county, and use the sliders to uncover significant concentrations of certain languages for yourself.


[i] U.S. Census Bureau 2010-2014 5-year American Community Survey Table S1601.

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Bialystok, E., Craik, F. I., & Luk, G. (2012). Bilingualism: consequences for mind and brain. Trends in cognitive sciences, 16(4), 240-250.