Seismic Shifts Coming in NJ as Boomers Retire, Generation Alpha Starts School

New Jersey is experiencing its greatest “brain drain” in history as baby boomers age out of the workforce. The housing market will transform as boomers downsize and members of Generation Y start rearing families. School districts are getting ready for Generation Alpha, the most diverse generation in recent Garden State history.

These demographic shifts and others are discussed in “Move Over Millennials: New Jersey’s Unfolding Generational Disruptions,” the 30th annual Rutgers Regional Report. The report was produced by James W. Hughes, a university professor and dean emeritus of Rutgers’ Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, and Joseph J. Seneca, a university professor emeritus, and published by the Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT).

The report traces demographic changes in New Jersey through six generations: pre-baby boomers (born before 1946), baby boomers, Generation X, millennials, Generation Z and Generation Alpha (born after 2012).

According to the report, public and private sectors will find succession planning an increasing concern during the 2020s as boomers retire and members of Generation X ascend to top leadership ranks. Millennials will remain the prized labor force for corporate New Jersey and will continue to shape local decision-making, but will be joined by the even more technologically sophisticated Generation Z. Dr. Hughes and Dr. Seneca say these disruptions are reconstructing the foundation of 21st century New Jersey.

“A passing of the leadership baton is in full force,” said Dr. Hughes, who cautions that generational boundaries may be quite fluid. A formerly dominant baby boom–driven acquisition economy gave way to millennial “experiential” lifestyle preferences, with millennials eschewing boomers’ penchant for suburban McMansion housing and automobiles. Post-millennials (Generation Z, born 1997 to 2012) and the newly defined Generation Alpha have yet to fully stamp their mark on the state’s landscape, but technology-enabled choices will facilitate moves away from fixed-in-place workplaces and change residential patterns. Generation Alpha, the first generation born totally within the 21st century, has never known anything other than continuous, instantaneous connectivity.

The study also notes each new generation’s increasing diversity, with U.S. Census data showing the proportion of the white, non-Hispanic population becoming smaller each generation. Millennials are New Jersey’s first modern generation that is minority white, and that trend continues with Generation Alpha.

These generational dynamics will have significant implications for New Jersey’s public policy and the economy. How the state’s business, transportation, home building, technology and healthcare industries and, most importantly, its education systems and infrastructure respond will affect New Jersey’s status as a national economic and intellectual leader.

The full report is available at

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