Bergen County is the most populous county in the U.S. state of New Jersey. As of the 2018 Census estimate, the county’s population was 936,692, an increase of 3.5% from the 2010 census, which in turn represented an increase of 20,998 (2.4%) from the 884,118 counted in the 2000 Census. Located in the northeastern corner of New Jersey and its Gateway Region, Bergen County is part of the New York City Metropolitan Area and is directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan, to which it is connected by the George Washington Bridge.
Bergen County is located at the northeastern corner of the state of New Jersey and is bordered by Rockland County, New York to the north; by Manhattan and the Bronx in New York City, as well as by Westchester County, New York, across the Hudson River to the east; and within New Jersey, by Hudson County as well as a small border with Essex County to the south, and by Passaic County to the west.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the county had a total area of 246.671 square miles (638.87 km), of which 233.009 square miles (603.49 km) (94.5%) was land and 13.662 square miles (35.38 km) (5.5%) was water.
Bergen County’s highest elevation is Bald Mountain near the New York state line in Mahwah, at 1,164 feet (355 m) above sea level. The county’s lowest point is sea level, along the Hudson River, which in this region is a tidal estuary.
The sharp cliffs of the New Jersey Palisades lift much of the eastern boundary of the county up from the Hudson River. The relief becomes less pronounced across the middle section of the county, much of it being located in the Hackensack River valley or the Pascack Valley. In the northwestern portion of the county, Bergen County becomes hilly again and shares the Ramapo Mountains with Rockland County, New York.
The damming of the Hackensack River and a tributary, the Pascack Brook, produced three reservoirs in the county, Woodcliff Lake Reservoir (which impounds one billion gallons of water), Lake Tappan (3.5 billion gallons), and Oradell Reservoir, which allows United Water to provide drinking water to 750,000 residents of northern New Jersey, mostly in Bergen and Hudson counties. The Hackensack River drains the eastern portion of the county through the New Jersey Meadowlands, a wetlands area in the southern portion of the county. The central portion is drained by the Saddle River and the western portion is drained by the Ramapo River. Both of these are tributaries of the Passaic River, which forms a section of the southwestern border of the county.
Bergen County is the most populous county in New Jersey, with an estimated population of 948,406 in 2017, 105,608 higher than Middlesex County, the second-ranked county. Bergen County accounted for 10.3% of the state’s population in 2010, increasing to 10.5% in 2017.
Bergen County’s annual property taxes were the second-highest of any New Jersey county in 2015 (after Essex County), averaging $11,078. Within Bergen County, Alpine residents paid the highest average property taxes in 2015, at $20,888, followed by Tenafly ($19,254) and Demarest ($17,937). Alpine had the fourth-highest average property taxes in the state in 2015 while Tenafly ranked sixth.
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 905,116 people, 335,730 households, and 238,704.030 families residing in the county. The population density was 3,884.5 per square mile (1,499.8/km). There were 352,388 housing units at an average density of 1,512.3 per square mile (583.9/km). The racial makeup of the county was 71.89% (650,703) White, 5.80% (52,473) Black or African American, 0.23% (2,061) Native American, 14.51% (131,329) Asian, 0.03% (229) Pacific Islander, 5.04% (45,611) from other races, and 2.51% (22,710) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 16.05% (145,281) of the population.
There were 335,730 households out of which 32% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.1% were married couples living together, 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.9% were non-families. 24.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.66 and the average family size was 3.2.
In the county, the population was spread out with 22.6% under the age of 18, 7.4% from 18 to 24, 25.9% from 25 to 44, 29% from 45 to 64, and 15.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41.1 years. For every 100 females there were 92.9 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 89.8 males.
As of the 2000 United States Census there were 884,118 people, 330,817 households, and 235,210 families residing in the county. The population density was 3,776 people per square mile (1,458/km²). There were 339,820 housing units at an average density of 1,451 per square mile (560/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 78.41% non-Hispanic white, 10.67% Asian, 5.27% black, 0.15% Native American, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 3.22% from other races, and 2.26% non-Hispanic reporting two or more races. 10.34% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race. Among those residents listing their ancestry, 22.0% were of Italian, 15.1% Irish, 11.2% German and 7.4% Polish ancestry.
There were 330,817 households out of which 32.10% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.90% were married couples living together, 9.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.90% were non-families. 24.70% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.20% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.64 and the average family size was 3.17. The age distribution was 23.00% under the age of 18, 6.60% from 18 to 24, 30.60% from 25 to 44, 24.50% from 45 to 64, and 15.20% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.80 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.40 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $65,241, and the median income for a family was $78,079. Males had a median income of $51,346 versus $37,295 for females. The per capita income for the county was $33,638. About 3.4% of families and 5.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.9% of those under age 18 and 5.90% of those age 65 or over.
Given its location as a suburban extension of Manhattan across the George Washington Bridge, Bergen County has evolved a globally cosmopolitan ambience of its own, demonstrating a robust and growing demographic and cultural diversity with respect to metrics including nationality, religion, race, and domiciliary partnership. South Korea, Poland, and India are the three most common nations of birth for foreign-born Bergen County residents.
Italian Americans have long had a significant presence in Bergen County; in fact, Italian is the most commonly identified first ancestry among Bergen residents (18.5%), with 168,974 Bergen residents were recorded as being of Italian heritage in the 2013 American Community Survey.
To this day, many residents of the Meadowlands communities in the county’s south are of Italian descent, most notably in South Hackensack (36.3%), Lyndhurst (33.8%), Carlstadt (31.2%), Wood-Ridge (30.9%) and Hasbrouck Heights (30.8%). Saddle Brook (29.8%), Lodi (29.4%), Moonachie (28.5%), Garfield, Hackensack, and the southeastern Bergen towns were Italian American strongholds for decades, but their Italo-American demographics have diminished in recent years as more recent immigrants have taken their place. At the same time, the Italian American population has grown in many of the affluent communities in the northern half of the county, including Franklin Lakes, Ramsey, Montvale, and Woodcliff Lake.
The diverse Hispanic and Latin American population in Bergen is growing in many areas of the county but is especially concentrated in a handful of municipalities, including Fairview (37.1%), Hackensack (25.9%), Ridgefield Park (22.2%), Englewood (21.8%), Bogota (21.3%), Garfield (20.1%), Cliffside Park (18.2%), Lodi (18.0%), and Bergenfield (17.0%). Traditionally, many of the Latino residents were of Colombian and Cuban ancestry, although that has been changing in recent years. Englewood’s Colombian community is the largest in Bergen County and among the top ten in the United States (7.17%); Hackensack, Fairview, Bergenfield, Bogota, and Lodi also have notable populations. The Cuban population is largest in Fairview, Ridgefield Park, Ridgefield, and Bogota, although the Cuban community is much bigger in Hudson County to the south. Since 2000, an increasing number of immigrants from other countries have entered the region, including people from Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Chile, as well as from the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. The diverse backgrounds of the local Latino community are best exemplified in Fairview, where 10% of the overall population hails from Central America, 7% from South America, and 9% from other Latin American countries, mainly the Caribbean. Overall, Bergen County’s Latino population has demonstrated a robust increase from 145,281 in the 2010 census count to an estimated 165,442 in 2013.
Irish Americans and German Americans are the next largest individual ethnic groups in Bergen County, numbering 115,914 in 2013 (12.7% of the county’s total population) and 80,288 (8.8%) respectively. As is the case with Italian Americans, these two groups developed sizable enclaves long ago and are now well established in all areas of the county.
Bergen County is home to the largest Jewish population in New Jersey. Many municipalities in the county are home to a significant number of Jewish Americans, including Fair Lawn, Teaneck, Tenafly, Closter, Englewood, Englewood Cliffs, Fort Lee, Bergenfield, Woodcliff Lake, Paramus, and Franklin Lakes. Teaneck, Fair Lawn, Englewood, and Bergenfield in particular have become havens for Bergen County’s growing Orthodox Jewish communities, with a rising number of synagogues as well as supermarkets and restaurants offering kosher foods. The largest Israeli American communities in Bergen County were in Fair Lawn (2.5%), Closter (1.4%), and Tenafly (1.3%) in 2000, representing three of the four largest in the state. Altogether, 83,700 Bergen residents identified themselves as being of Jewish heritage in 2000, a number expected to show an increase per a 2014 survey of Jews in the county.
The top ten municipalities in the United States as ranked by Korean American percentage of overall population in 2010 are illustrated in the following table:
One of the fastest-growing immigrant groups in Bergen County is the Korean American community, which is concentrated along the Hudson River – especially in the area near the George Washington Bridge – and represented more than half of the state’s entire Korean population as of 2000. As of the 2010 Census, persons of Korean ancestry made up 6.3% of Bergen County’s population (increasing to 6.9% by the 2011 American Community Survey to an estimated 63,247 individuals), which is the highest percentage for any county in the United States; while the concentration of Koreans in Palisades Park, within Bergen County, is the highest density and percentage of any municipality in the United States, at 52.5% of the population. Per the 2010 Census, Palisades Park was home to the highest total number (10,115) of individuals of Korean ancestry among all municipalities in the state, while neighboring Fort Lee had the second largest cluster (8,318), and fourth highest proportion (23.5%, trailing Leonia (26.5%) and Ridgefield (25.7%)). All of the nation’s top ten municipalities by percentage of Korean population in 2010 were located in Bergen County, including Palisades Park, Leonia, Ridgefield, Fort Lee, Closter, Englewood Cliffs, Norwood, Edgewater, Cresskill, and Demarest, closely followed by Old Tappan. Virtually all of the municipalities with the highest Korean concentrations are located in the eastern third of the county, near the Hudson River, although Ridgewood has emerged as a Korean American nexus in western Bergen County, and Paramus and River Edge in central Bergen County. Beginning in 2012, county election ballots were printed in the Korean Hangul (한글) language, in addition to English and Spanish, given the U.S Census Bureau’s directive that Bergen County’s Korean population had grown large enough to warrant language assistance during elections. Between 2011 and 2017, the Korean population of Fair Lawn was estimated to have more than doubled.
Korean chaebols have established North American headquarters operations in Bergen County, including Samsung, LG Corp, and Hanjin Shipping. In April 2018, the largest Korean-themed supermarket in Bergen County opened in Paramus. In January 2019, Christopher Chung was sworn in as the first Korean-American mayor of Palisades Park.
Polish Americans are well represented in western Bergen County and are growing as a community, with 59,294 (6.5%) of residents of Polish descent residing in the county as of the 2013 American Community Survey. The community’s cultural and commercial heart has long been centered in Wallington, where 45.5% of the population is of Polish descent; this is the largest concentration among New Jersey municipalities and the seventh-highest in the United States. The adjacent city of Garfield has also become a magnet for Polish immigrants, with 22.9% of the population identifying themselves as being of Polish ancestry, the third highest concentration in the state.
The county’s African American community is almost entirely concentrated in three municipalities: Englewood (10,215 residents, accounting for 38.98% of the city’s total population), Teaneck (11,298; 28.78%), and Hackensack (10,518; 24.65%). Collectively, these three areas account for nearly 70% of the county’s total African American population of 46,568, and in fact, blacks have had a presence in these towns since the earliest days of the county. In sharp contrast, African Americans comprise less than 2% of the total in most of Bergen’s other municipalities. In Englewood, the African American population is concentrated in the Third and Fourth wards of the western half of the city, while the northeastern section of Teaneck has been an African American enclave for several decades. In 2014, Teaneck selected its first female African-American mayor. Hackensack’s long-established African American community is primarily located in the central part of the city, especially in the area near Central Avenue and First Street. Bergen County’s black population has declined from 52,473 counted in the 2010 Census to an estimated 50,478 in 2012. Other county municipalities with a sizeable minority of African-Americans include Bergenfield (7.7%), Bogota (9.4%), Garfield (6.5%), Lodi (7.5%) and Ridgefield Park (6.4%)
Indian Americans, or Asian Indians, represent a rapidly growing demographic in Bergen County, enumerating over 40,000 individuals in 2013, a significant increase from the 24,973 counted in the 2010 Census, and represent the second largest Asian ethnic group in Bergen County, after Korean Americans. The biggest clusters of Indian Americans are located in Hackensack, Ridgewood, Fair Lawn, Paramus, Teaneck, Mahwah, Bergenfield, Lodi, and Elmwood Park. Within the county’s Indian population is America’s largest Malayali community, and Kerala-based Kitex Garments, India’s largest children’s clothing manufacturer, opened its first U.S. office in Montvale in October 2015. Glen Rock resident Gurbir Grewal, a member of Bergen County’s growing Indian American Sikh community, was sworn into the position of county prosecutor in 2016, and an architecturally notable Sikh gurudwara resides in Glen Rock, while a similarly prominent Hindu mandir has been built in Mahwah. The public library in Fair Lawn began a highly attended Hindi language (हिन्दी) storytelling program in October 2013. The affluent municipalities of northern Bergen County are witnessing significant growth in their Indian American communities, including Glen Rock, into which up to 90% of this constituency was estimated by one member in 2014 to have moved within the preceding two-year period alone. In February 2015, the board of education of the Glen Rock Public Schools voted to designate the Hindu holy day Diwali as an annual school holiday, making it the first district in the county to close for the holiday, while thousands celebrated the first county-wide celebration of Diwali under a unified sponsorship banner in 2016. An annual “Holi in the Village” festival of colors has been launched in Ridgewood.
Fair Lawn, Tenafly, Alpine, and Fort Lee are hubs for Russian Americans, including a growing community of Russian Jews. Garfield is home to an architecturally prominent Russian Orthodox church. Likewise, Ukrainian Americans, Georgian Americans, and Uzbek Americans have more recently followed the path of their Russian American predecessors to Bergen County, particularly to Fair Lawn. The size of Fair Lawn’s Russian American presence has prompted an April Fool’s satire titled, “Putin Moves Against Fair Lawn”. The Armenian American population in Bergen is dispersed throughout the county, but its most significant concentration is in the southeastern towns near the George Washington Bridge. The victims of the Armenian Genocide are recognized annually at the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack.
Bergenfield, along with Paramus, Hackensack, New Milford, Dumont, Fair Lawn, and Teaneck, have become growing hubs for Filipino Americans. Taken as a whole, these municipalities are home to a significant proportion of Bergen County’s Philippine population. A census-estimated 20,859 Filipino Americans resided in Bergen County as of 2013, embodying an increase from the 19,155 counted in 2010. Between 2000 and 2010, the Filipino-American population of Bergenfield grew from 11.7%, or 3,081 residents, to 17.1%, or 4,569, and increasing further to 5,062 (18.4%) by 2016. Bergenfield is informally known as the Little Manila of Bergen County, with a significant concentration of Filipino residents and businesses. In the late 1990s, Bergenfield became the first municipality on the East Coast of the United States to elect a Filipino mayor, Robert C. Rivas. The annual Filipino American Festival is held in Bergenfield. The Philippine-American Community of Bergen County (PACBC) organization is based in Paramus, while other Filipino organizations are based in Fair Lawn and Bergenfield. Bergen County’s culturally active Filipino community repatriated significant financial assistance to victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which ravaged the Philippines in November 2013. Between 2011 and 2017, Fair Lawn’s Filipino population was estimated to have more than doubled.
The Chinese American population is also spread out, with sizable populations in Fort Lee, Paramus, Ridgewood, River Edge, and Englewood Cliffs. Fort Lee and Paramus have the highest total number of Chinese among Bergen municipalities while Englewood Cliffs has the highest percentage (8.42%). Several school districts throughout the county have added Mandarin Chinese to their curricula.
The Japanese community, which includes a significant number of Japanese nationals, has long had a presence in Fort Lee, with over a quarter of the county’s total Japanese population living in that borough alone. Adjacent Edgewater has also developed an active Japanese American community, particularly after the construction of the largest Japanese-oriented commercial center on the U.S. East Coast in this borough. As of March 2011, about 2,500 Japanese Americans lived in Fort Lee and Edgewater combined; this is the largest concentration of Japanese Americans in New Jersey. The remainder of Bergen County’s Japanese residents are concentrated in northern communities, including Ridgewood. The Japanese-American Society of New Jersey is based in Fort Lee.
Greek Americans have had a fairly sizable presence in Bergen for several decades, and according to 2000 census data, the Greek community numbered 13,247 county-wide. Greek restaurants are abundant in Bergen County. The largest concentrations of Greeks by percentage in the county are in Englewood Cliffs (7.2%), Alpine (5.2%), Fort Lee (3.7%), and Palisades Park (3.5%). Macedonian Americans and Albanian Americans have arrived relatively recently in New Jersey but have quickly established Bergen County enclaves, roughly in tandem, in Garfield, Elmwood Park, and Fair Lawn.
Bergen County also has a moderately sized Muslim population, which numbered 6,473 as of the 2000 census. Teaneck and Hackensack have emerged as the two most significant Muslim enclaves in the county, with the American Muslim Union’s 18th annual brunch gathering held in Teaneck in 2016. Bergen’s Muslim population primarily consists of Arab Americans, South Asians, African Americans, and more recently, Macedonian Americans and Albanian Americans, although many members of these groups practice other faiths. While Arab Americans have not established a significant presence in any particular municipality, in total there are 11,755 county residents who indicated Arab ancestry in the 2000 census. The overwhelming majority of Bergen’s Arab American population (64.3%) is constituted by persons of Lebanese (2,576), Syrian (2,568), and Egyptian (2,417) descent. The county’s diners provide late-night and pre-dawn dining options during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
A relatively recent community of Iranian Americans has emerged in Bergen County, including those in professional occupations scattered throughout the county.
Same-sex couples headed one in 160 households in 2010, prior to the commencement of same-sex marriages in New Jersey on October 21, 2013. On June 28, 2016, Bergen County officials for the first time raised the rainbow-colored gay pride flag at the county administration building in Hackensack to commemorate the gay rights movement.
By national standards, housing is expensive in Bergen County. In May 2015, the median house price in Bergen County was $465,000; however, median figures belie the significant variation noted between more and less affluent towns in the county.
In the Forbes magazine 2012 ranking of the Most Expensive ZIP Codes in the United States, Alpine was ranked as the second most expensive in the country, with a median home sale price of $5,745,038. There were a total of 12 county municipalities listed in the top 500, which were Englewood Cliffs (#129; $1,439,115), Saddle River (#133; $1,427,515), Franklin Lakes (#190; $1,176,229), Tenafly (#286; $913,553), Demarest (#325; $852,010), Cresskill (#362; $794,073), Ho-Ho-Kus (#364; $788,626), Wyckoff (#376; $776,303), Woodcliff Lake (#391; $752,161), Montvale (#455; $640,825) and Allendale (#481; $579,081). In the magazine’s 2006 listing, Alpine was ranked as the 15th most expensive in the country, with its median home sale price in 2005 of $1,790,000 ranking as the state’s highest. In all, 11 Bergen County municipalities were also represented on the list in addition to Alpine, including Englewood Cliffs (ranked #78; median sale price of $1,112,500), Saddle River (#107; $997,000), Franklin Lakes (#111; $985,000), Woodcliff Lake (#266; $786,000), Haworth (#342; $747,500), Demarest (#350; $742,000), Ho-Ho-Kus (#353; $740,000), Wyckoff (#405; $700,000), Closter (#452; $684,000) and Ridgewood (#470; $675,000).
Construction of the first of two 47-story glass-sheathed luxury skyscrapers commenced in 2013 in Fort Lee, a borough where high-rise residential complexes are a prominent feature and one of Northern New Jersey’s Hudson Waterfront communities that has been called New York City’s Sixth Borough; these upscale apartment towers, located near the gateway to the George Washington Bridge leading to Manhattan, represented the tallest buildings to be built to date in Bergen County.