Report: NH growing older, more diverse

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/6/2019 10:12:30 PM
Modified: 12/6/2019 10:12:17 PM

WEST LEBANON — New Hampshire’s population on average is growing older and more racially diverse, while the sheer number of residents is growing more slowly in the 21st century than it did during the last three decades of the 20th.

Even still, the Granite State would be losing more residents than it’s gaining if not for the influx of Americans from other states, according to a recent report that a team, led by University of New Hampshire sociology professor Kenneth Johnson, assembled by studying U.S. Census data.

“Through most of the past half-century, domestic migration has fueled most of New Hampshire’s population gain,” Johnson writes in a report released last month by UNH’s Carsey School of Public Policy. “Today, nearly 52% of the population of the state was born elsewhere in the country and later migrated to New Hampshire.”

As of July 1, 2018, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 1,356,458 people lived in New Hampshire, about 3% more than than the 2010 Census had counted.

Many of those who have been moving in — from abroad as well as from other states — “have been better educated than those leaving and thus increase the state’s store of intellectual capital,” Johnson wrote. “Even during the worst of the (recent) recession, New Hampshire had a net gain of migrants with a college degree or more.”

Johnson counts his family in that demographic.

“I moved to New Hampshire from Chicago in 2007, leaving a job at Loyola University to take a job at UNH,” he said in an exchange of emails. “My wife and I wanted a change from living in a big, Midwestern urban area and New Hampshire looked like an attractive place to live and work.”

That ongoing in-migration of skilled, educated workers, especially those with children, is narrowly offsetting the overall aging of the population. The most recent available Census Bureau data indicate that, with more than 240,000 residents ages 65 and older, New Hampshire ranks No. 3 in the country in median age at 42.7, trailing only Maine (44.3) and Vermont (42.8). The national median age, estimated during the census bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey, is 37.8.

“The ranks of adults in their 50s, 60s and 70s has expanded substantially over the past 15 years,” Johnson wrote in the New Hampshire report. “One important consideration for policymakers is that … the state’s older population will more than double over the next 20 years.”

Policymakers in the Upper Valley already are wrestling with a wide range of consequences of aging baby boomers. This week, after the Grafton County Senior Citizens Council cut dessert from its home-delivered and congregate meals, some of the region’s advocates for elders cited a need for higher reimbursements to social-service agencies amid growing demand for Meals on Wheels programs.

In his email, Johnson observed that while the “general trends” in population change did not surprise him as he and his team crunched the numbers, “I’m … amazed at the amount of turnover there is in the New Hampshire population.

“The state grew only modestly (by a net of 40,000, between 2010 and 2018), yet more than 450,000 people moved either in or out of the state, and there were 119,000 vital events — births and deaths. That is a lot of change in the population of a small state.”

That modest growth in the overall population “is geographically uneven,” Johnson wrote in the report. “Many fast-growing areas are concentrated in the southern and central parts of the state, while slower growth or population loss characterizes the northern part of the state and the area along the Connecticut River.”

Indeed, while U.S. Census figures showed that Cornish and Enfield were the only Upper Valley municipalities to lose or keep even their population between 2000 and 2010, more recent estimates show that nine stayed the same or lost ground between 2010 and 2018. Among them, Lyme, Claremont and Newport experienced drops of between a quarter- and half-percent. By contrast, most of Coos County, the remote northern tip of the state, lost at least a half-percent.

Despite a still-overwhelmingly white, non-Hispanic population, the members of minority groups living here and moving here are gradually diversifying the pool of ethnicities. Johnson reports that the decline of the white majority from 95.1% in 2000 to 90% in 2018 represents “a doubling of the proportion of the state that is minority, from 61,600 … to 136,000, and this growth accounted for two-thirds of the small increase in the entire population” over those 18 years.

Johnson added that Hispanics now account for 3.9% of Granite Staters, to 2.9% for Asians and 1.4% for African Americans, living particularly “in the Concord-Mancheser-Nashua urban corridor, as well as in the Hanover-Lebanon region and in a few areas of the Seacoast,” he wrote.

People of color of child-bearing age are repopulating at a much higher rate than their white peers in the state.

“In all, 15.5% of New Hampshire’s children belonged to a minority population in 2018,” Johnson wrote. “As we look to the future, the proportion of New Hampshire’s population that is minority will continue to grow.”

For one of his next explorations of demographic trends, Johnson said in his email, he and his collaborators “are working on new research now using opinion-survey data on why people come to or stay in New Hampshire.

“Tax-related issues do get mentioned,” Johnson observed, “but the top factors are family, work-related moves — both getting jobs and retiring — and the natural and social environments.”

David Corriveau can be reached at or 603-727-3304.

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