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College Students as a Leading Indicator of Diversity

January 31st, 2011 by

image source: Rutgers University

The Fall 2010 issue of Rutgers Magazine featured this very interesting half-page item listing the 10 most common surnames among the Rutgers student body in 2009 and in 1990, showing how the demographic composition of the student body has changed over nearly 20 years:


1. Smith
2. Patel
3. Lee
4. Johnson
5. Brown
6. Jones
7. Miller
8. Kim
9. Chen
10. Davis


1. Patel
2. Lee
3. Kim
4. Shah
5. Smith
6. Chen
7. Wang
8. Rodriguez
9. Brown
10. Johnson

— Office of the University Registrar

What’s different?  Non-Anglo surnames now constitute a majority of the top 10, including the No.1 position.  The first clearly Hispanic surname has appeared.  And East Asian surnames are both more numerous and closer to the top of the list.

Because immigrants tend to be younger than the rest of the population, demographic shifts have a tendency to show up first in schools, and then in colleges, before they show up in the population as a whole.  But many of the trends visible in the Rutgers student registration data are now also playing out in the state at large.

In 1990, only 9.6 percent of New Jersey residents were Hispanic (a little less than one in 10 people); as of the 2009 American Community Survey, the Hispanic population represents 16.7 percent of the total (or one in six people).

In 1990, more than two in five New Jersey Hispanics (43.3 percent) were of Puerto Rican background; in 2009, Puerto Ricans made up only 29.2 percent of all Hispanics.  In contrast, Mexicans accounted for only 3.9 percent of all Hispanics in 1990 but more than tripled that percentage, to 14.6 percent, as of 2009.

Dominicans are another rapidly growing Hispanic subgroup.  In 1990, their numbers were so small that they were not even enumerated separately on the Census form; today, Dominicans make up 11.6 percent (one in nine) of all New Jersey Hispanics.

Similarly, South Americans were not broken out separately on the Census form in 1990, but in 2009, people of South American origin made up 22.6 percent of all Hispanics in New Jersey, with Ecuadorians, Colombians and Peruvians being the dominant groups, each with more than 6 percent of the total.

Asians have more than doubled their share of New Jersey’s population, comprising 3.5 percent of the total in 1990 but 7.8 percent in 2009.

Asian Indians have grown even faster as a subgroup, making up 29 percent of all Asians in 1990 but 40 percent in 2009.


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