Wealth matters. Not just for how New Jerseyans view their own personal well-being, but in how they perceive the quality of life offered by their home state. In the third installment of a series on the Garden State’s Quality of Life, the Monmouth University Poll focuses on how income relates to life satisfaction in New Jersey.
As may be expected, higher income earners have a better outlook on life and feel more secure. For example, 93% of those earning more than $150,000 a year say their personal finances are good, compared to 48% of those earning less than $25,000. And while they have higher opinions of the quality of life offered in their corner of the Garden State, they are no more likely than lower income residents to feel affection for the state as a whole.
Garden StateQuality of Life Index
|All New Jerseyans|
|$25K to $50K|
|$50K to $75K|
|$75K to $100K|
|$100K to $150K|
The Monmouth University Poll’s Garden State Quality of Life Index shows a wide disparity based on household income. Those earning less than $75,000 a year tend to score lower than the statewide average of +21 (on a scale -100 to +100), while those earning more score higher. Specifically, residents with household incomes below $25,000 score +11 on the Garden State Quality of Life Index, those earning between $25,000 and $75,000 score +18, those earning $75,000 to $100,000 score +25, those earning $100,000 to $150,000 score +30, and those earning $150,000 or more score +32.
The Monmouth University Poll’s Garden State Quality of Life Index is comprised of two major components – ratings of the state as a whole and ratings of one’s hometown and local area. It is interesting to note that the income level variations in the index are based largely on how residents view their own corner of New Jersey rather than the state as a whole.
Specifically, when asked to rate New Jersey as a place to live, between 59% and 69% of New Jerseyans give a positive rating of excellent or good, regardless of income level. However, when asked to rate their own hometown, the disparity grows to a wider range of 57% positive among the lowest income earners (under $25,000) to 85% positive for the highest income category in the survey ($150,000 or more). Furthermore, when asked to rate their local area on a variety of issues ranging from safety to economic opportunities to the availability of cultural programs and health care, there is a clear income-based relationship. While nearly half of New Jerseyans earning over $150,000 (49%) score high on the poll’s Local Area Rating index, significantly fewer of those earning less than $25,000 (29%) have a similar positive score.
One somewhat alarming trend is that higher income earners are more likely than less well-off residents to say that they would like to leave the state someday. The break point for this opinion seems to occur at the $75,000 mark. Nearly 6-in-10 residents earning above that amount say they would like to leave the state, compared to nearly half of those who earn less. There would be a clear impact on the state’s tax base if higher income earners follow through and leave the state while lower income earners stay. As such, this is a metric that deserves close monitoring in the coming years.
“One of the more significant findings in this study is that higher income residents appear more likely to credit their hometowns and local areas rather than the state for their overall quality of life,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “This group is also more likely to express a desire to leave the state. If they do, it could have major policy implications for the life quality of future generations of Garden State residents.”
New Jersey Quality of Life Metrics
New Jersey is a good place to live
Hometown is a good place to live
High local area rating index
Would like to leave New Jersey
|$25K to $50K|
|$50K to $75K|
|$75K to $100K|
|$100K to $150K|
Income plays little role, though, when residents evaluate whether they are getting their money’s worth for their local taxes. Only about 1-in-3 New Jerseyans feel the quality of their local services is worth the taxes they pay. That number varies by only a few points – from just 29% to 36% – across income categories.
There is a significant difference, though, when residents are asked if they themselves could afford to buy a home in their neighborhood on their current salary. More than 6-in-10 residents earning six figure salaries say they could (67% for $150,000 or more and 62% for $100,000 to $150,000), dropping to 42% of those making $75,000 to $100,000, 28% making $50,000 to $75,000, 13% making $25,000 to $50,000, and just 5% of those earning less than $25,000 a year.
Among New Jerseyans who currently own a home that carries a mortgage, 44% say they could afford buying a home in their neighborhood today. However, only 30% of those who own their homes outright say the same. It is important to note that more than half the people who own their houses outright are retired, which probably contributes to the lower number. Most renters will likely keep renting for the foreseeable future, as only 11% say they could afford to buy a home in their community on their current salary.
A more comprehensive description of the survey results by residents’ income level can be found in the full Monmouth University Polling Institute report, available at: https://www.monmouth.edu/polling/admin/polls/NJQualityofLife_Income_July2011.pdf.
Funding for the Garden State Quality of Life project was provided by the Plangere Foundation, New Jersey Resources, First Energy Corporation, and sanofi-aventis.
Survey Methodology: The Garden State Quality of Life survey was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from December 1 to 15, 2010 with a statewide random sample of 2,864 adult residents. Sampling and live telephone interviewing services were provided by Braun Research, Inc. Smaller counties were oversampled so that the final survey included at least 100 survey respondents from each of New Jersey’s 21 counties. Racial and ethnic minorities were also oversampled by screening for appropriate respondents in areas of minority population concentration. The survey results were then weighted to accurately reflect the New Jersey adult population for gender, age, education, race, and county.
For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 1.8 percentage points. Sampling error increases as the sample size decreases, so statements based on various population subgroups, such as separate figures reported by gender or party identification, are subject to more error than are statements based on the total sample. The sampling error for the various income level sub-groups discussed in this report ranges from ±4.5% to ±5.7%. In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.