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New Hampshire Among Half Of U.S. States That Saw More Deaths Than Births In 2020

Courtesy of the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire

The latest federal data shows a steep increase in deaths across the United States last year, attributed in part to COVID-19.

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According to provisional data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, the U.S. saw eighteen percent more deaths in 2020 than in 2019.

Twenty states saw “natural decrease” - more deaths than births in the year – for the first time in about a century. New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, and West Virginia saw natural decrease for the second year in a row.

Kenneth Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire who analyzed the data, says once the pandemic is over, most states will likely start seeing more births than deaths again.

But some trends might continue. For instance, birth datafrom December 2020 and January 2021 suggests that fewer people are having babies during the pandemic. But birth rates have been declining since the Great Recession, and may continue in that direction.

In northern New England, the combination of an aging population, high mortality from drug overdoses, and declining birth rates could make natural decrease the new norm.

“In New England and a few other places which already have pretty high deaths and relatively few births, natural decrease will likely continue in the future,” Johnson notes.

Johnson says as a result, any population growth in states like New Hampshire will be due to in-migration from other states or countries.

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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