Equity in NJ Public Schools

In a state like NJ where student experiences and outcomes are alarmingly unequal, it is important to generate understanding of the consequences of school segregation for students’ life outcomes. The NJ Policy Lab will partner with the Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies at Rutgers-Newark to investigate consequences of school segregation cohorts of high school freshmen in New Jersey.

This project will aim to present a nuanced picture of the potholes facing high school students of different backgrounds in different schools/districts as well as of the opportunities for avoiding them. Understanding how segregation directly affects student outcomes, how school conditions are affected by segregation and then affects student outcomes is a major expansion of the current knowledge base. This study will intentionally identify opportunities for improvement and closing gaps. Additionally, this project will conduct a broad and constructive public information campaign about these findings.

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.


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.

Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area viewed at sunset from Mount Tammany located in New Jersey

Women, Work, and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Evidence suggests women have borne the brunt of the economic crisis and social upheaval triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Women’s work lives have been disrupted in profound ways and the gender gap in unpaid work has grown.

This study will be carried out by the Center for Women and Work at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations to examine the reasons for women’s and men’s job losses in 2020 and gauge the extent to which caring labor responsibilities constrained women’s labor force participation in New Jersey. The analysis aims to help guide discussions on where and how to advance gender and racial equity in New Jersey as stakeholders seek pathways to develop a more inclusive economy.


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.


Cannabis Legalization

This past year, NJ became the 13th state to legalize marijuana. The decriminalization of cannabis and potential tax revenue from cannabis sales have great implications for NJ residents.

The purpose of this project is to create a baseline study that examines health, public safety, and education indicators for the state of New Jersey. This study will be useful in future studies that seek to assess the impact of recreational cannabis on New Jersey residents.

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.


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.

Coming SOON

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.

Coming SOON
Johnson Hall, at Johnson & Johnson World Headquarters


The COVID-19 pandemic led to the significant use of telehealth. However, the transition and expansion of telehealth during the pandemic posed challenges to both patients and providers. As achieving health equality is vital to reducing health disparity, the New Jersey Policy Lab is prioritizing healthcare research that informs policies related to providing care through telehealth to the state’s most vulnerable populations.

Two projects will serve to further expand the understanding of telehealth usages in New Jersey. One project will focus on the healthcare delivery systems in New Jersey to understand the status of telehealth use and the policy challenges that exist for continued provision of telehealth services post-COVID-19. The second project aims to understand the use of telehealth in safety-net hospitals and federally qualified health centers in New Jersey and to identify challenges faced in its implementation during the COVID-19 pandemic and continuation of such services post-COVID-19.This research will inform recommendations to state policymakers on New Jersey telehealth laws and reimbursement policies.

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

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
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.

Coming SOON
Paterson, NJ / USA - 7/8/20: Landscape view of the Great Falls of the Passaic River. a prominent waterfall, 77 feet (23 m) high, on the Passaic River in the city of Paterson in Passaic County.

Opiate Overdoses in NJ

In using data to confront the opioid epidemic, the state of New Jersey is currently implementing several reforms to addiction policy that would benefit from data-driven analysis to evaluate areas of the state to target for resource allocation, planning of new facilities, and public policy development and evaluation.

In collaboration with the Rutgers Urban and Civic Informatics Lab, this project will develop a statewide spatial risk model using informatics or machine learning methods to predict which regions of New Jersey are more susceptible to opioid overdoses. This model will generate findings with policy implications, such as where new addiction treatment facilities are needed and can be most effective as well as how effective existing state policies have been at combatting opiate abuse in communities.

Coming SOON
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.

Coming SOON
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.

Coming SOON
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.

Coming SOON
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.

Coming SOON
Flooded streets on Long Beach Island after a big rain storm

Community Resilience Planning

In collaboration with the Center for Natural Resources at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, this project will implement a newly developed Community Intrinsic Resilience Index (CIRI) to capture and integrate socio-economic, energy, public health, and transportation information to enhance the involvement of communities in the decision-making phase of resilience planning and facilitate the use of mobile storage to deliver power to underserved communities during peak hours.

As climate change has intensified the severity of storms and natural disasters, the toll on communities in the costs of lives, livelihoods, and infrastructure is increasingly apparent. Communities must plan for such hazards by better managing disaster risks and developing strategies to restore vital services and rebuild after damaging events.

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