By Alexander Heller
Imagine living in a place where the majority of the population in your state says doesn’t exist. You’ve lived in that area all your life believing it’s real as well as seeing the evidence yourself. However, one man’s truth is another man’s fallacy. This is the case for many New Jerseyans who’ve lived in the mythical land of Central Jersey. The Central Jersey debate has often been used as a means to bridge the divide of North and South Jersey, but more often than not Central Jersey has been seen as a laughing stock for many. No longer.
Central Jersey is indeed a very real place.
“It’s weird to me that people are so passionate to say something doesn’t exist when a substantial part of the state believes it does,” said NJ Advance Media reporter, Stephen Stirling. Originally from Somerset County, he never identified with the North and South Jersey identities. “My identity growing up was Jersey,” Stirling said. “and the folks around me felt the same way.”
Despite Central New Jerseyans feeling that there’s a distinct culture to this part of the state, exactly where it is has always proved to be the most difficult part of the debate. Below, we measured out the distances of some the most popular radio stations in New Jersey to see if an overlap can find Central Jersey, as well as using Craigslist searches of the past 10 years on Google Trends.
Radio has been the key one factor that unites the state at large. As you can see above, we measured out the maximum radio radius distance or MRRD, to find any overlap among the most popular radio stations in and out of New Jersey. Using radio-locator.com’s maps and the coordinates of the radio stations themselves, we were able to measure the max distance each station can broadcast through the measuring tools of Google Maps.
Frequencies that have 2-3 or more overlap is designated a region. North Jersey, South Jersey, and the Shore. Through this method, we were able to pinpoint the exact counties that have traditionally been associated with Central Jersey.
Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Ocean, and Somerset counties all consist of Central Jersey.
Although the frequency overlaps showcased the counties of Central Jersey, exactly who they market to is entirely different.
Leo Kirshner, assistant station manager for Rowan University’s radio station, says that the broadcasting and advertising markets make it difficult to point out Central Jersey.
“There are two broadcasting markets in the state,” Kirshner said. “Atlantic/Cape May, which is South Jersey and Ocean/Monmouth, which is North Jersey. Due to my personal experience in professional broadcasting, it really comes down to the rural and urban markets, which has always been South Jersey for rural and North Jersey for urban.”
Craigslist and Google Trends
So if the radio frequencies prove there is a Central Jersey, but it’s market doesn’t. Which market does? Believe or not, Craigslist.
To those unfamiliar with it, Craigslist is an American classified advertisements website with sections devoted to jobs, housing, services, sales and more. The website showcases where exactly places are hiring or where services are needed. What’s unique about the site is that it focuses further on the region that you’re in, to better identify which ads are closest to you.
Tracking the number of searches in the past 10 years on Google Trends, the regions of North Jersey, South Jersey and yes, Central Jersey are highlighted quite well.
The regions that are historically located in North Jersey are highlighted here.
North Jersey is highlighted here.
South Jersey is represented quite nicely.
Here we have Central Jersey in all of its glory!
So how much does Central Jersey take up?
Central Jersey takes up a good chunk of the population of New Jersey.
According Census data back in 2018, the counties of Central Jersey total to about 2.8 million people. That’s about 38% of people who don’t truly exist, if North and South New Jerseyans still think it’s not real.
Furthermore, four out of the ten most wealthiest counties of New Jersey are also from Central Jersey. With Hunterdon County being the wealthiest county of New Jersey.
Even if Central Jersey continues to be parodied and mocked, the fact still remains that more than a third of New Jersey’s population believes that Central Jersey is a real place with its own culture and its own identity.
“I’m a Philly born, South Jersey raised guy,” Vice President of Rowan University’s Democratic Club, Connor Schmiegel said. “While I might jokingly state that it doesn’t exist, it most certainly does. Southern New Jerseyans and Northern New Jerseyans might be quick to point out it doesn’t exist, they themselves aren’t so quick in pointing out where North Jersey ends and South Jersey begins. This grey area is Central Jersey. It’s there, maybe we it’s time we start accepting that.”
Data Sources: Top Ten Counties Per Capita in New Jersey, New Jersey Regional Population, Most Popular Radio Stations in NJ-Distances (Points), Counties and Populations For NJ, NY, PA, DE, factfinder.census.gov,www.dar.fm