Folk beliefs and practices of our people
Deena Shoshkes • Jun 14, 2017
Editor's note: What follows is a response to my original article generalizing about NJ's culture. The article made some claims that were perhaps more based in negative stereotypes of NJ that I've internalized than actual facts. NJ natives responded negatively, especially to the use of the word "asshole" to describe "an archetypal personality" of the state. My mom, a life-long NJ resident, offers the following essay in response, combining her wealth of experience in the state with well-documented support for her claims.
Regarding your essay on NJ Culture, as a Jersey Girl, I protest!
The “archetypal personality” you outline seems to me to describe a pervasive contemporary American characteristic, not specific to NJ.
I disagree with your premise that Public Life in NJ is marked by open social conflict. I would like to see examples of the sorts you describe. Here too, I believe you are describing contemporary American culture in general. I don’t believe we have more of these conflicts than other states.
Personally, I feel the biggest point of conflict in NJ is income inequality. It can be so very visible, for example, when towns like Irvington and Short Hills are just a few miles apart.
I wondered, is there more poverty and/wealth in NJ than elsewhere and did some research. I looked on wikipedia and found some interesting facts:
“New Jersey has the highest percentage of millionaire residents in the country with 7.12% of New Jersey households having $1 million or more liquid or investible assets, not including equity in homes.
Approximately 76% of New Jersey places have per capita incomes above the national average, however, according to the 2008-2012 American Community Survey, 9.9% (US average 14.9%) of the population lives below the poverty line.”
We have the richest, but not the poorest. All those riches do make the poverty stand out in stark reality.
Regarding road rage on the GSP (and I’ll add the NJTPK) I think the driving behavior is simply a matter of numbers. It’s an overcrowded road. It’s not necessarily a feature of NJ or the “Jerseyist thing,” it’s more a result of the success of the state and it’s location. Being in the middle of BosWash LOTS of people are passing through daily.
Again, I wondered on this and did some research on road rage:
Apparently, Hawaii has by far the angriest drivers, with a sizeable majority of #RoadRage posts originating from the Aloha State. California came in second, with New York rounding out the top three.
Here’s a list of the worst cities for road rage. (NJ makes it on there twice, but not in the top 10, and the cities Hoboken and Weehawken are close to the NYC tunnel congestion)
24. Scottsdale, AZ 23. Portland, OR 22. Honolulu, HI21. Hoboken, NJ 20. Boston, MA 19. Culver City, CA18. Philadelphia, PA17. Miami, FL16. Dallas, TX15. Beverly Hills, CA14. Weehawken, NJ13. Washington, DC12. Seattle, WA11. Santa Monica, CA10. Atlanta, GA9. Austin, TX8. Houston, TX7. Anaheim, CA6. San Francisco, CA5. San Diego, CA4. Chicago, IL3. Mount Pleasant, NC2. New York City, NY1. Los Angeles, CA
Another interesting fact I came across while looking this up - NJ is the 2nd safest (after VT) as far as community safety and ranks 17 for road safety.
Check out this fascinating chart: https://wallethub.com/edu/safest-states-to-live-in/4566/ Overall we’re #15 (but that’s because of natural disaster vulnerability… shoreline..hurricanes.. bringing down the average.)
Here’s my theory about NJ: NJ is so hospitable, the land is fertile, the hills are rolling, the climate is not too extreme. It’s been a comfortable place to be, historically and that is also the source of its problems. Because it’s easy to live here, more and more people do. Our problems are more about overcrowding, than anything else. I think we do a pretty good job with harmony, diversity, and education, relative to the rest of the country.