New Jersey farmland

Open Space, Farmland, & Historic Preservation

Since the Garden State Preservation Act of 1998, New Jersey has set a goal to preserve one million acres of open space, farmland, and historic structures. This project will analyze the amount of open space (parks, natural areas, blue acres, etc.), farmland, and historic sites preserved, compare this data with statewide goals and targets, and provide findings and policy recommendations to ensure these programs are an efficient, effective, and equitable allocation of public dollars for preservation.

Teacher helping young preschool kids playing musical toys

NJ Childcare Infrastructure

New Jersey has a remarkably unique childcare landscape with unionized at-home childcare workers and a new childcare tax credit. However, nearly half of residents live in a childcare desert, and the number of home-based childcare providers in the state has dropped. Economists and other social scientists have long argued that childcare is a pivotal aspect of a successful economy. Accessible and affordable care allows parents to fully participate in paid work. The COVID-19 pandemic made this dynamic even clearer. Led by the Center for Women and Work, this project provides new evidence on New Jersey’s childcare landscape, gaps in childcare infrastructure, and the ways in which the state can better support childcare workers. The analysis is intended to help guide discussions on how New Jersey’s childcare landscape can be improved and how its expansion stands to benefit working parents and the state’s economy as a whole.


Digital Equity Initiative

As technology advances and COVID-19 continues to force activities to be virtual, there is an increasing divide between those with the skills and tools needed to thrive in this new environment. The people who are most affected by this divide are in low-income and rural areas, who lack access to high-speed internet connections. These individuals will struggle to participate in opportunities for their economic and educational growth.

The Digital Equity Initiative at the New Jersey Policy Lab aims to ensure all citizens of New Jersey have the capacity to connect online by using data science to identify and resolve obstacles and dynamics of digital equity. The outcomes from this project will help state agencies improve the application and accessibility of their benefits, create training programs, and help policymakers make our society more digitally inclusive.

Information network concept. Smart city.

Garden State Informatics

Information is critical for informing policy and addressing a wide range of social, societal, and socioeconomic problems. The State of New Jersey has data-sharing initiatives, and many agencies have shared their data; however, the data is often unconsolidated which makes it difficult for data-driven decisionmakers to work effectively with it. Working in collaboration with the Rutgers Urban and Civic Informatics Lab (RUCI), this project’s primary purpose is to address the critical need for researchers, lawmakers, and all data-driven decision-makers to have a clear, simplified, and integrated view of the information ecosystem in NJ. By identifying and summarizing data sources, this project will prepare a plan to provide an integrated and interactive mechanism to facilitate effective and efficient data access to policy, research, business, and governance in the State of New Jersey.

Newark, NJ, skyline on a hazy night with Verrazano Narrows bridge in the background.

Financial Aid for Higher Education in NJ

Two new higher education grant programs, the Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG) and the Garden State Guarantee (GSG), are making college more accessible and affordable to low-income New Jersey residents, limiting out-of-pocket costs and, thus, future debt.

This study, in a partnership with the Newark City of Learning Collaborative, will inform the rollout of financial aid programs in the state by exploring Newark families’ perceptions of the CCOG and GSG, barriers to access, and strategies to increase awareness and expand the impact of these grants.

Hurrican Sandy: man talking on the phone near flooded street

Equitable Property Acquisitions to Enhance Climate Resilience

As climate impacts continue to escalate and affect New Jersey, an update of the floodplain buyout program, Blue Acres, will be an essential tool for the state to reduce New Jerseyans’ vulnerability to flooding. Led by the Climate Change Resource Center, this project will examine best practices of other programs across the country, inventorying what innovative practices of buyout programs outside of New Jersey have helped to ensure proactivity, maximized community benefits, equity, and environmental justice, and what engagement efforts have captured community members’ vision. Updating this important program should be done thoughtfully and rigorously, with the intention of informing the redesign of the state’s flood property acquisition program while keeping equity and environmental justice top-of-mind.

Selection of medical recreational cannabis at a legal retail store

Legalizing Cannabis Businesses

In 2020, New Jersey became the 13th state to legalize cannabis. However, more than 60% of all New Jersey municipalities voted to ban local cannabis-related businesses in their towns, which will likely have important economic and social impacts on NJ local governments. Therefore, it is vital for New Jersey state and local policymakers to understand why some municipalities opted-in and others opted-out of allowing cannabis-related businesses to locate in their jurisdictions.

This research project will investigate different sets of political, socioeconomic, geographic, and fiscal characteristics that affect decisions to allow or ban cannabis-related businesses across New Jersey municipalities, and short-term economic impacts of these decisions. The findings of this project will provide local and state policymakers with important economic and law enforcement insights that may have equity implications across the state.

Graphic of diverse hands all reaching together over a multicolored painted heart

Equity in the State Budget

In New Jersey’s efforts to track the operations and performance of all State government departments, there is no specific reference to equity. Government actions have the potential to make a substantial and lasting impact on equity for all residents. One of the most powerful levers for advancing equity is the government’s budget.

This project will provide the State with information on how other US states are integrating equity into their assessment of agency and department performance and how they are using their budgets to advance equity for people of color and other marginalized groups. This information can be used to help the State of New Jersey adapt its agency performance assessment and its budget to more directly include a focus on the equity impact of its services and investments.


Evaluating Evaluations

Implementation and reporting of evidence-based policies are integral parts of being a transparent and effective state government. By conducting research on policy effectiveness, state governments can determine the real impact that policies have on target populations.

This project focuses on how New Jersey evaluates programs related to recidivism, addiction recovery, and workforce development. In looking at New Jersey’s current evaluation systems, this project aims to assess the future creation of an evaluation site for state government. This would include having leadership and governance structures to use evaluations to improve results, having evaluation policies and learning agendas in place to support the building and use of evidence, and using dedicated resources to evaluate state results.


Food Waste & Security

As climate change increases its impact on our environment, it is imperative to discover how NJ can respond in its food waste and food security policies. The NJ Policy Lab will partner with the Organics Workgroup of the NJ Climate Change Alliance to conduct research to inform the development of statewide public policy aimed at reducing food waste, contributing to food security, and driving organic wastes away from landfills.

This project will study how other states’ policies address the economic impact of regulatory reform efforts, examine the design of those efforts, and assess the effective stakeholder engagement efforts in other states that contributed to the development of policies and regulatory reform. The outcome of this project will inform emerging public policy related to climate change and its intersection with other societal priorities including food insecurity.

Aerial view of a dense residential district

NJ Housing Crisis in the COVID-19 Era

The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing the vast housing affordability crisis in New Jersey as both homeowners and renters have required governmental assistance to secure stable housing. Housing policies have had to adapt to the increased level of need, however, the scale of the problem is only growing as the ongoing economic impact of the pandemic is felt in communities throughout the state and the nation.

This project will examine strategic development of five housing authorities in New Jersey: Newark, Jersey City, Elizabeth, Trenton, and Camden. The project will establish a foundational framework for developing instruments to assess organizational learning processes through exploring the interplay between local, state, and federal housing policies on issues of affordability and challenges of housing disparities during the COVID-era.

Hoboken's main street has local shops in well preserved 19th century buildings

Encouraging Activation of Vacant Commercial Properties

The economic recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an increase in vacant and under-occupied commercial property across New Jersey. This increase is expected to put downward pressure on economic growth and government revenues in both the short and long run.

By developing policy reports on solutions to vacant commercial property, this project will explore existing and prospective tax and subsidy policies that both New Jersey state and local governments could use to encourage property owners to reuse and/or activate currently vacant commercial properties in the state.

New Jersey's School Funding Reform Act

The 2018 Revision of New Jersey’s School Aid Formula and its Implications for District Finances and Student Achievement

In 2008, New Jersey enacted the School Reform Funding Act (SRFA) which was designed to create a new school funding formula to end a long cycle of failed legislative attempts to reduce school spending inequalities across the state’s school districts. Unfortunately, the SRFA created its own revenue inequalities, primarily with some New Jersey school districts receiving more state aid than what the government was required to provide, while others did not receive the required amount of state funding based on the new formula.

In 2018, Bill S-2 was signed to revise the SRFA and address the funding inequalities. This new project will provide systematic analysis of how these school formula changes following the 2017-2018 school year impacted the distribution of state aid across New Jersey school districts. The research will be obtained by using district-level data on financial and student achievement variables from the New Jersey Department of Education before and after the implementation of the S-2 bill.

Coming SOON

Environmental Justice

With New Jersey’s passage of an Environmental Justice law, municipalities throughout the state seek guidance on resources and best practices that can support their efforts to advance systematic Environmental Justice provisions in local planning and decision-making.

This project will collaborate with various NJ state agencies to develop web-based and printable guidance that can be used by municipalities to prepare Environmental Justice Action Plans.

Coming SOON
Teacher Preparation Programs

How Teacher Preparation Programs are Responding to Changes in State Assessment Policy

Teacher education in New Jersey is currently undergoing a major policy shift in how teacher performance assessments will be used to certify new starting teachers. This shift was motivated, in large part, over concerns regarding teacher shortages and the impact that the established assessment policies and practices were having in exacerbating this problem. This project will study, in real time, how teacher preparation institutions are responding to the new policy directions that will take effect in Fall 2023.

Coming SOON
Exchange Place New Jersey

The Impact of Technology Use for Public Organizations

With information and communication technologies growing steadily across all levels of government in New Jersey and throughout the United States, it becomes imperative for public organizations to understand how technology use affects work outcomes for public employees and access to government services for citizens. In particular, the coronavirus pandemic forced public organizations around the world to quickly integrate technology into workplace practices to continue to provide public service and guarantee safety.

This project will investigate how the integration of technology in public organizations affects public managers’ work outcomes and their interaction with citizens and local vulnerable communities. Results from this project will inform organizational policies surrounding technology use and provide inputs for improving the interaction between the state government and vulnerable communities through the use of and access to online technologies.

Coming SOON
Nature & People with Disabilities

Increased Access to Nature and Outdoor Recreation for People with Disabilities

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 21% of New Jersey adults have some type of disability. Adults with disabilities are more likely to have depression, diabetes, or other health problems. Research has underscored the physical and mental health benefits from access to nature and outdoor recreation. Being outside in green spaces supports an active and healthy lifestyle, which has shown to increase life expectancy, improve sleep quality, reduce diabetes and the risk of cancer. However, research also indicates an inequitable access to nature and outdoor spaces faced by people with disabilities.

This project will conduct research regarding other states’ policies regarding advance access for people with disabilities to nature and outdoor recreation and intend to hold focus groups with people with disabilities to gain input on the specific needs, challenges, and priorities in order to expand access. A public report will be prepared and published to outline state policy challenges and opportunities associated with improving access for people with disabilities to nature and outdoor recreation.

Coming SOON

An Intersectional Examination of the Effects of Inflation in New Jersey

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation has plagued the nation and the state of New Jersey, with national inflation rates higher than they have been in decades. This situation raises concerns about the financial well-being of Americans and New Jerseyans, as well as how inflation may affect different demographic groups disproportionately.

In order to get a better understanding of how price increases have differentially affected New Jerseyans, and thereby providing an updated picture of economic gender inequality in the state, this project will examine both how the spending habits of various groups of consumers affect their rate of inflation and how financially prepared they are to face price increases. This project will be accomplished as a collaboration between the New Jersey State Policy Lab and the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University.

Coming SOON
New Jersey Credential Attainment Goal, 65% by 2025

New Jersey Credential Attainment Goal, 65% by 2025

In 2017, the State of New Jersey launched the “65 by ’25: Many Paths to One Future Campaign,” pledging a goal that 65% of working-age residents would have some type of high quality post-secondary credential by 2025. As the state embarks on the final stretch of this attainment goal, the New Jersey State Policy Lab will be evaluating the progress toward this objective on behalf of the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE).

With this research, the Policy Lab will evaluate the state’s current progress, taking societal contexts into consideration, review the most effective practices at increasing attainment, and provide recommendations for future considerations to build upon OSHE’s current work.

Coming SOON
Senior Digital Divide

Senior Health Connect

The goal of this report is to bridge the digital divide among older adults—a persistent gap in access to broadband services, internet-ready devices, and proficiency in their use—while addressing health inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic in New Jersey.

This research will be conducted through several phases, which include training cohorts of seniors on device and internet use and engaging participants in a guided health literacy program. The Senior Health Connect (SHC) training curriculum and implementation strategy was developed with the input from community residents and other community-based stakeholders, senior serving organizations, RU-N’s Office of Information Technology (OIT), faculty from the School of Public Affairs and Administration, and students from various academic disciplines.

Coming SOON
Metuchen Train Station

Transforming NJ Transportation Infrastructure 

Healthy, safe, resilient, and carbon-neutral transportation has become a policy priority at both the national and state levels. By embracing this policy alignment along with a massive investment in transportation, land use, and mobility infrastructure, decision-makers can support mobility options to promote healthier communities in New Jersey.

Working with Rutgers’ Voorhees Transportation Center, this project will demonstrate how a comprehensive, multi-goal transportation planning and policy framework can be used to achieve carbon-neutral transportation that also provides healthy, just, efficient, and resilient mobility for all New Jersey residents.

Coming SOON

Transportation Changes during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has had major impacts on how people work, travel, and engage in commerce. The NJ Policy Lab will partner with the Alan M. Vorhees Transportation Center at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning & Public Policy at Rutgers-New Brunswick in conducting and analyzing two rounds of surveys to better inform state and local policymakers on how this change in consumer behavior will affect real estate, public transit, and commerce.

In collecting and analyzing data that documents reported changes in travel patterns, on-line shopping, and perceptions of street closures and outdoor dining, the main objective is to track these changes over time with the aim of determining whether these changes persist. Understanding these potential changes will help policy makers and planners at the state and local level find solutions to deal with any major changes, if they continue.

Coming SOON

Unemployment Insurance and Mental Health

The COVID-19 Pandemic has caused record rates of unemployment in NJ and nation-wide. Joblessness is known to diminish mental health status, and, in turn, diminished mental health has been shown to delay labor force re-entry. Improving unemployment insurance recipient mental health is in the interest of both the unemployed individual and the state, as even a small improvement in time to re-employment can lead to substantial savings to the unemployment insurance system.

The New Jersey Policy Lab will partner with the Center for State Health Policy at Rutgers-New Brunswick to use publicly available data from the PULSE Household Survey to address important questions about the feasibility of offering mental health supports through the unemployment insurance system. The purpose of this project is to examine potential gains for unemployment insurance recipients and the state from adding mental health supports to the array of services offered through New Jersey’s unemployment insurance system.