Civic Engagement

Civic Engagement is generally agreed to be the process of working collaboratively to address issues. It often involves partnerships and coalitions that help mobilize resources and influence systems, and serves as a catalyst for changing policies, programs, and practices. This section focuses on accountability and transparency in goverment, community groups, volunteering and philanthropy.

National Civic Engagement Rankings provide data on how New Jersey compares to other states on measures of Civic Engagement.

State and Local Reports provide featured analysis of current civic engagement data within New Jersey, including the Civic Engagement Index that compares NJ counties on community interaction, community involvement and political participation.


National Rankings - compared to other states, New Jersey ranks...

33rd in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data

April, 2014. New Jersey received a “C+” (score of 79) in government spending transparency, according to “Following the Money 2013: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” the fourth annual report by U.S. PIRG. The spending transparency score considers the availability of online information regarding contracts, expenditure, tax credits, and grants. Indiana got the highest grade with 94 and California received the lowest with 34.

37th in Number of Nonprofits per Capita

October, 2013.  Using records from the Internal Revenue Service, the Urban Institute's National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) estimates that New Jersey had 45.3 nonprofit organizations per 10,000 members of the population in 2012. Montana had the most with 96.1 nonprofits per 10,000 members of the population.  Nevada came in last at 27.2.  The Center urges caution in interpreting such rankings because many nonprofits work outside the area where they are located.  As an example, the District of Columbia, which we have not included, had more than 200 nonprofits per 10,000 people, with many of these being internationally-focused organizations seeking a location near the federal government. 

43rd in Percent of Income to Philanthropy

August 20, 2012. Despite being having among the highest household incomes in the nation, New Jersey households give just 3.7 percent of their income to charities. This is 43rd in the U.S. according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy 2012 ranking (based on 2008 IRS data). Utah gave the most with 10.6 percent and Maine gave the least with 2.8 percent.

1st in Transparency and Accountability in State Government

March 19, 2012. With a grade of B+ and a numerical score of 87, New Jersey has the toughest ethics and anti-corruption laws in the nation, according to the 2012 report by the State Integrity Investigation. New Jersey received the highest grade in 6 out of 14 fields of this corruption risk index (procurement, internal auditing, lobbying disclosure, pension fund management, ethics enforcement agencies, and redistricting). 

5th in Number of Hate Groups

There were 51 active hate groups in New Jersey in 2012, the 5th highest number in any state according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. California had the most with 82, and there were 1,007 across the county. Hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.

• 46th in Volunteer Rate

In New Jersey 1.55 million adults, 22.6 percent of the population, volunteered with an organization during 2011 according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. With 22.6 percent, New Jersey ranks 47th, among the lowest rate in the U.S. Utah ranked highest with 40.9 percent and Louisiana ranked lowest with 19.6 percent.

25th in # of Social and Community Service Managers per Thousand Jobs 

March 29, 2013. With 3,660 social and community service managers equating to .96 employment per thousand jobs, NJ had the 25th largest per thousand in 2012 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their annual mean wage of $77,730 in New Jersey was the third highest in the U.S.

23rd in the Concentration of Clergy

March 29, 2013. NJ was the 23rd highest in the number of clergy with 0.23 employment per thousand jobs in 2012 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Oregon had the highest with 2.52. There were 930 clergies in NJ.

10th in Government Contracts for Human Service Nonprofits

December 5, 2013. New Jersey ranked in the top 10 with 4,804 government contracts and grants for its human service nonprofits in 2010 according to the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy. California ranks first with 22,489, and Idaho ranks last with 486.

30th in Attendance for Religious Services

December 21, 2009.With 38 percent of New Jersey's population attending religious services at least once a week or almost every week, New Jersey has the 28th highest attendance rate according to a 2009 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey. The national average was 41.6 percent. Mississippi had the highest attendance rate with 56 percent, and Vermont had the lowest with 23 percent.

• 35th in Belief in God

December 21, 2009. With 66 percent of New Jersey's population believing in God, New Jersey has the 35th highest rate according to a 2009 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey. The national average was 71 percent. Mississippi had the highest rate with 91 percent, and New Hampshire and Vermont had the lowest with 54 percent.

10th in Number of Libraries

October 28, 2011. With 301 libraries in 2009, New Jersey has the 10th largest number in the U.S. according to the Institute of Museum and Library Services. New York ranks first with 756 and Hawaii ranks last with 1. New Jersey ranks 20th in library visits per capita with 6.1.


State and Local Reports

The New Jersey Civic Engagement Index

While New Jersey overall measures favorably nationally in terms of Civic Engagement, there is great variation within the state.

The New Jersey Civic Engagement Index measures three areas of Civic Engagement - community interaction, community involvement and political participation - for New Jersey counties in 2008 and 2010. Cape May is the most civically engaged county, followed by Mercer and Essex counties; the least civically engaged county was Hudson County.

Read the full report


Additional Reports

Paul Starr, Scott Weingart and Micah Joselow, A Future for Public Media in New Jersey, August 2010.

Scott Weingart, Less News is Bad News: The Media Crisis and New Jersey’s News Deficit, Jersey Policy Perspective, October 2009.

Robert Lake, et al., Civic Engagement in Camden, New Jersey A Baseline Portrait, MDRC, September 2007.

Suzanne J. Piotrowski and Erin Borry, Partly Cloudy: A Report on the New Jersey Sunshine Law, New Jersey Foundation for Open Government, February 2007.



Data from the NJ DataBank may be used with the following acknowledgement:

Source: NJ DataBank (, a project of the School of Public Affairs and Administration, Rutgers University-Campus at Newark