Age matters when New Jersey residents evaluate the state’s quality of life. But it’s not a straightforward relationship. Young adults join senior citizens in giving generally higher ratings to their home state when compared to the views of middle-aged residents. This fifth installment in a Monmouth University Poll series on the Garden State’s Quality of Life also found that gender and parental status hold little sway over residents’ view of their home state.
Garden State Quality of Life Index
|All New Jerseyans|
|Parents with Children under 18|
|Parents with Children under 18 by gender|
|Male, no <18 child.|
|Female, no <18 child|
A key indicator for how well New Jersey is doing is the Garden State Quality of Life Index designed by the Monmouth University Polling Institute. The index is a combined evaluation of the state, residents’ hometowns, local schools, the environment, and crime. Overall, there are few differences between men and women in how they view New Jersey’s quality of life. Women have a slightly higher (+23) index score than men (+20), but both are close to the statewide average of +21. There is even less of a difference between parents with children under the age of 18 (+21) and those who currently do not have any minor children (+22). This similarity holds regardless of the parent’s gender.
Age is a key factor, though, in assessing the state’s quality of life. The oldest and youngest New Jersey adults tend to give answers that score high on the Garden State Quality of Life Index. Among the youngest adults, those between 18 and 29, the index stands at +27 and among those over the age of 70, it stands at +32. The Garden State Quality of Life Index score is below the state average for both 30 to 49 year olds (+19) and 50 and 69 year olds (+17).
“It’s interesting that having a child at home does not significantly impact how residents view their state. The stresses of raising a child in a high-cost state like New Jersey may be offset by the many advantages their home state offers,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Perhaps even more interesting is the role that age plays in assessing New Jersey’s quality of life. Younger adults start off with a relatively more positive view, which dips through their middle-age years, only to rebound considerably as they enter retirement.”
When it comes to a desire to stay in New Jersey for the rest of their lives or hope to eventually leave the state, the survey finds significant differences among the age groups. More than half of those under 70 are hoping to leave New Jersey eventually, while only 20% of those over the age of 70 say the same. Having children under the age of 18 also increases the likelihood that a person would like to leave New Jersey eventually. Among New Jerseyans with children under the age of 18, 59% would like to leave the state eventually, while only 46% of those without children say the same. While parents tend to be younger adults, age does not fully explain the higher desire of parents to leave the state. Across all age categories, New Jersey parents under 70 are 5% to 8% more likely to say that they would like to leave the state someday.
The survey also asked residents to rate their local area as a place to raise a family. Overall, 26% of New Jerseyans rate their area as excellent, 48% as good, 16% as only fair, and 9% as poor. There is no difference on this question between parents of minor children (26% excellent and 47% good) and those who do not have children under the age of 18 (26% excellent and 48% good).
A majority of parents and non-parents alike give the state’s schools a positive rating, but parents of children under the age of 18 (69%) are slightly more likely than non-parents (61%) to say that their local schools are doing an excellent or good job.
Age makes a small difference when it comes to confidence in local and state government, although it is low among every age group. Among those under 70 years old, only 13% to 17% express a lot of confidence in their local government, but among the 70+ generation, 30% express a lot of confidence. Similarly, between 7% and 14% of 18 to 69 year olds express a lot of confidence in the state government, while 21% of those 70 years and older say the same.
Confidence in the local police department consistently goes up with age. Just over half (55%) of 18 to 29 year olds have a lot of confidence in their local police, which increases to 60% among those 30 to 49, 63% among those 50 to 69, and finally 71% among those 70 years and older. Age does not impact confidence in the local fire and rescue departments.
The survey included questions on Garden State residents’ financial situation. When asked directly if their family often has trouble making ends meet, the survey finds no differences between residents with children under the age of 18 and those who do not have minor children. The only difference is regarding age. Overall, fewer than 1-in-5 New Jerseyans report frequent problems making ends meet, with both the youngest and oldest residents being less likely than middle-aged residents to experience this. Among those 18 to 29 years old, 11% say they often have trouble making ends meet and among those age 70 or older, 9% say the same. Residents between 30 and 49 (19%) as well as 50 to 69 (18%) are somewhat more likely to experience that situation.
When New Jerseyans are asked how satisfied they are with their standard of living, again age makes a difference. Among those 70 or older, 41% are very satisfied, but among those 50 to 69 only 25% say the same, and the number drops further to 19% for 30 to 49 year olds. The number goes back up to 29% for New Jersey’s youngest adults between 18 and 29 years old.
A more comprehensive description of the survey results with details for each life stage group can be found in the full Monmouth University Polling Institute report, available at: https://www.monmouth.edu/polling/admin/polls/NJQualityofLife_AgeParent_Sept2011.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 subgroups discussed in this report ranges from ± 2.3% to ± 8.9% depending on the size of the subgroup. When splitting the age groups further into parents and non- parents, error can be as much ± 8.9%. 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.