More young people are moving to N.H. from other states, study shows

  • A graph showing migration trends to New Hampshire from 2008 to 2012 and 2013 to 2017. Courtesy—UNH Carsey School

  • A graph from the state's Department of Employment Security showing population growth in New Hampshire from 1910 on. Courtesy—N.H. Employment Security

Monitor staff
Published: 12/6/2018 12:42:08 PM

There’s some good news for those worried about the graying of New Hampshire – more young people are moving to the state than were leaving it during the 2008 recession.

The average annual domestic migration gain – meaning how many more people moved into the state than moved out – was 5,900 between 2013 and 2017, according to a recent study by the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy. In contrast, only about 100 more people moved to New Hampshire than left it for other states each year between 2008 and 2012.

The biggest change was in the 20s demographic, which had an annual gain of 1,200 between 2013 and 2017, compared to an average loss of 1,500 annually from 2008 to 2012, Carsey School senior demographer Kenneth Johnson found. More than twice as many people in their 30s came to the state in that same period.

Johnson called the gains modest, but said, “they provide additional human social capital to a state challenged by an aging workforce and population.”

The news is sure to excite players in the business and “stay, work, play” sectors, who have been striving to find more ways to bring young people to New Hampshire.

A joint survey of 420 residents from Stay Work Play and Eversource earlier this year found that young people tend to shy away from New Hampshire due to a sense of aloneness, unfriendly public policy on issues important to young professionals and a perceived lack of opportunity.

One-fifth of those surveyed said they didn’t have a friend who lives close by and 1 in 4 have no family members that are easily accessible.

Will Stewart, executive director of Stay Work Play, said there’s no public policy option to fix what he called the “loneliness factor.”

But there is when it comes to student debt, affordable housing and preserving the outdoors and environment, issues that were of top concern for people Stay Work Play surveyed. Stewart said his organization plans to advocate for those issues on the state level next year.

“I think if you talk to really any business or business association, the words you often hear is workforce development,” he said. “That’s the vehicle through which entities are dealing with this issue.”

The need for better access to child care and the perceived lack of cultural and entertainment opportunities were other top issues for New Hampshire, the survey found.

Recent conversations about the issue have also included the need for diversity in the state as a way to combat its aging, primarily white, population. As demographics trend toward a more diverse population, New Hampshire remains about 94 percent white, according to recent census data.

That statistic, coupled with the aforementioned problems, makes diversifying the state a challenge.

Stewart said the state will still face challenges going into next year, but he hopes the recent data is just the beginning of a trend.

“It’s positive seeing this trend,” he said. “We need a lot more people for our businesses to survive and thrive.”

A study by Johnson last year found that the state’s population grew by 7,800 from 2016 to 2017, the largest population gain for the state since 2005. Those gains, too, came from migration, rather than natural causes.

“Births in New Hampshire only minimally exceeded deaths and thus contributed little to the population gain,” Johnson writes. About 900 more births than deaths occurred during that time period, he found.

Positive as these numbers seem, they are still occurring in the slowest growth period for New Hampshire’s population in about 100 years.

A November New Hampshire Employment Security workforce analysis noted New Hampshire’s overall population grew by just 2 percent from 2010 to 2017, compared to 6.5 percent in 2000 to 2010. Growth hasn’t been that low since the 1920s, the report stated; it peaked from 1970 to 1980 at 25 percent.

“When looking at the historic trend, population growth over the decade has almost slowed to a halt ...,” the report notes.

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