If it wasn’t for people moving here from other places, N.H.’s population would have shrunk

  • New Hampshire’s population would have shrunk over the past three years without in-migration of people moving to the state. Courtesy UNH Carsey School of Public Policy

  • FILE - In this June 15, 2017, file photo, people walk inside the Oculus, the new transit station at the World Trade Center in New York. According to figures released Monday, Dec. 30, 2019, by the U.S. Census Bureau, the past year’s population growth rate in the United States was the slowest in a century due to declining births, increasing deaths and the slowdown of international migration. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File) Frank Franklin II

Monitor staff
Published: 1/2/2020 4:54:00 PM

New Hampshire has become more dependent than ever for migration to keep its population from shrinking, judging from the latest Census Bureau estimates.

In 2019, the state saw more deaths than births for the third year in a row, something that has never happened before, according to UNH demographics expert Ken Johnson. Despite that, New Hampshire’s overall population grew slightly in 2019 because people are moving here from other states and countries.

“Most of this migration gain has come because more people are moving into New Hampshire from other states than leaving it. … Over the past three years, an annual average of 3,800 more people moved into New Hampshire from other U.S. destinations than left it,” Johnson wrote in an email. “New Hampshire also received an annual average of 2,200 net immigrants from other nations over the past three years.”

“In a state where deaths now exceed births, migration is critical to New Hampshire’s future,” he wrote.

The state’s population trend echoes that of the nation, to an extent. United States’ total population grew at the slowest rate since World War I last year, mostly because of a decline in people moving to this country fueled by anti-immigration federal policies.

Since the 1990s, New Hampshire’s population growth has been slow or stagnant, which is largely a function of the state’s ethnic makeup. New Hampshire residents are mostly non-Hispanic whites, who have smaller families than many other groups.

The data reflects the situation: A decade ago, in 2009, New Hampshire saw 13,388 births. Five years later that figure had fallen by 1,000 and five years after that, in 2019, it fell by another 700 to just 11,680. That’s a decline of 13% in a decade.

At the same time, the number of deaths increased by more than 20%, from 9,994 in 2009 to more than 12,250 last year.

This same pattern explains why populations in Vermont and Maine, as well as much of New England, are also stagnant.

As Johnson puts it, in-migration means that New Hampshire is “winning a race among turtles in New England” because its population is growing faster than any of our neighbors, even though it’s growing very slowly.

New Hampshire is also “winning a race among turtles” in Northern New England over diversity: In 2019, for the first time, 10 percent of the state was an ethnic or racial minority. 

Johnson noted that the recent Census Bureau data is just an estimate and may get adjusted as more information arrives. “They have been reasonably accurate in the past but should be interpreted with caution,” he added.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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