Site ranks New Hampshire among lowest places for millennials to live

Monitor staff
Saturday, April 15, 2017

In a finding that is sure to make state job recruiters pound their heads on the table, a financial website has crunched a few numbers and decided that New Hampshire is just about the worst state in the nation for millennials to live.

You might want to take this designation with a grain of salt, however, because the website thinks there are only 40 bars in the entire state. Further, they feel the best place for young adults to live is North Dakota.

North Dakota?!?

New Hampshire, according to a financial-advice site called MoneyRates, is the next-to-worst state for people born in the 1980s and 1990s. Only Arizona is worse.

You might think they based their judgment on fear of mountains – their No. 2 is South Dakota and No. 3 is Nebraska, which is even flatter than the Dakotas – but it seems that the University of New Hampshire’s high in-state tuition and a shortage of broadband in rural areas counted heavily against us.

That and one other thing: Not enough places to drink and socialize.

“New Hampshire is not a great place to go for nightlife, with the second-lowest concentration of bars relative to the size of its young adult population,” says MoneyRates, in a statement that is sure to puzzle people trying to get the bartender’s attention at the Barley House.

Here’s where MoneyRates went wrong: It uses Census Bureau data, because it’s free and easy to download. And based on 2012 data, the Census Bureau says we had only 40 bars in the entire state.

How can the Census Bureau say something so odd? Because of what data scientists call a category error.

The Census Bureau defines bars as businesses “primarily engaged in preparing and serving alcoholic beverages for immediate consumption … (which) may also provide limited food services.”

But the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, following state law, won’t grant a liquor license to an establishment unless “at least 50 percent of the gross sales of any such licensee is in food” or it sells at least $75,000 of food a year.

There are a few small exceptions, such as tasting rooms, but what this law means is that for all practical purposes, New Hampshire doesn’t allow what the Census Bureau calls bars.

We do allow restaurants – 2,751 by the last Economic Census tally – many of which serve booze and are full of cavorting millennials. But we have no bars.

If you’re a website based in New York (or so I think; MoneyRates is shy about its physical location) and know nothing about New Hampshire except easily accessible Census data, you might conclude we’re practically a dry state.

That’s why you should ignore most of the state-by-state rankings that fill your social media feed.

There’s a flip side to this error, by the way. The often-repeated claim that New Hampshire drinks more liquor per capita than any other state. This error exists because outsiders don’t realize roughly half the state liquor sales are made to out-of-staters lured by our lack of sales tax.

Sometimes these two erroneous data points are combined to paint a picture of New Hampshire as a land of anti-social boozers. The data says we buy lots of liquor but we have no bars, so apparently we sit at home every night and get sozzled!

This also shows why the Dakotas do well in MoneyRates’s list. The oilfield boom in recent years has drawn busloads of young, usually male, people seeking high-paying jobs as drillers and in related fields, and they find there’s not a lot to do in their free time in the Upper Plains except drink.

At bars – lots of bars.