Time Magazine Uses Wrong Population Figures in Ranking of Princeton as Top ‘Genius’ Place in America

Time Magazine analyzed 2.2 million patents issued by the U.S. government from 1976 to 2016 for its top 100 list of the most innovative places in the United States.

The magazine ranked towns and cities based on patents per capita. Time gave Princeton the top spot on the list, claiming Princeton has a population of 12,307, and that Princeton had 10,049 patents over a 40-year period. But that was the population for Princeton Borough in the 2010 census. The figure does not include neighboring Princeton Township, even though residents and businesses in both municipalities would list “Princeton” as their residences and addresses.  The total population of the two Princetons combined was 28,334, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. The Princetons consolidated in 2013.

The list also does not factor in the fact that many companies and individuals have Princeton mailing addresses even though they are based in Lawrenceville, South Brunswick, and other municipalities. For example Sarnoff, NEC and Bristol-Myers Squibb are located in other towns but have offices with Princeton addresses.

Redmond, Washington came in second place and Morristown, New Jersey was third.

For the full list, visit the Time Magazine story.

Editor’s Note: Time Magazine updated the census figures Sunday night, but this still does not account for the fact that residents, pharmaceutical companies and other businesses in surrounding municipalities list Princeton as their mailing address. The Time Magazine rankings were corrected to more than double the 2010 census population, yet the average per capita only was reduced by about 25 percent and does not take into account the mailing address issue. 


  1. It is really time for the consolidated Princeton to unite Borough & Township with one zip code & clearly defined boundaries on search engines. Beyond stopping errors like the one reported here, one zip code may help end the ugly “us vs. them” tone that flies here as residents identify with their former hoods. Will realtors selling “Princeton” without our schools & businesses outside our boundaries trading on our name complain about a clear unification…probably, yes. But therein lies an instant revitalization of our downtown, a wellspring of town pride, a visual manifestation of who we are, and a truly complete consolidation..all from sharing a few digits.

    1. Actually, further enlarging Princeton’s zipcode would only compound the type of error highlighted here. Moreover, it’s hard to imagine how much more it could be abused than it already is. As it stands, tons of “Fake Princeton” addresses carry the good old 08540 zip. My office address uses it and we’re not even in Mercer county.

      1. Actually, “Fake”, I was suggesting that the Borough & Town could jointly become 08542… or any number that doesn’t end in 40… leaving all “Fake Princetonians” who aren’t in Princeton & aren’t in Mercer County out there in 08540. 08540 has become so big that even the USPS gets confused, & honest USPS staff will admit that’s a huge problem. Your “good old” 08540 isn’t “good” for me & my neighbors, but IS so “old” it needs to be revisited & changed to a local Princeton only zip for those who really live here.

        1. Gotcha. Thing is, I can’t say I know this for certain, but I’d strongly suspect the town has zero influence over zip codes–those being the sole province of the USPS.

          1. The USPS would change the zip code for former Princeton residents, if the Mayor & Council requested it. This should be part of Princeton’s consolidation plan. The USPS has definitely changed zip codes in NJ, as zones become too populated, etc. Zips are not sacrosanct or assigned in perpetuity. There is however a notice period that is lengthy before the USPS enacts the change. And, they definitely do assign zips to denote specific towns…or even give zip codes to institutions ike Princeton University & large businesses like ETS.

            1. Those using 08540 outside of our County or misrepresenting their connection to our town provide compelling reasons for Princeton to have a unique zip.

              The tone of the sentence read very “nose in the air” to me.

              I was assigned to the 08540 zip by USPS and never misrepresented my relationship to Princeton. In fact, I am quite happy to let people know I don’t live in Princeton.

              1. Hey Khurt L Williams, My sincerest apologies if my choice of words offended you. That wasn’t my intent & not something I’d ever want to do. I was moved by the fact that realtors have sold “Princeton” properties to folks who thought they were buying in Princeton’s school district, only to discover they weren’t…. shopping centers way far away say “Princeton”, and that kind of thing. Over the years, I’ve heard many variations on that theme…and It just seems wrong to confuse, mislead or take advantage of newcomers & visitors to our area that way. I was equally offended when map search engines created & displayed “Princeton North” as if it was a real geographical place… based on census data that offensively grouped & then removed lower income folks & housing together from one small patch in the center of Princeton. So wrong… & It disgusted me that everyone here wasnt included in “Princeton”. So… People have been both included & shut out of “Princeton” many times over by those who label or misrepresent. I really appreciate that you understand my support of truth, as my only purpose in writing here. Thanks!

    2. I agree. I live in the 08540 zip code and I am not in Mercer County. I get into arguments with writers of “best restaurants” in Princeton article who don’t know that half the restaurants reviewed are outside the town.

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