Census Data: Younger People Are Moving To N.H., But Not Enough To Offset Aging Population

Dec 11, 2018

Credit Courtesy of UNH

New estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show New Hampshire has seen a substantial net inflow of people from other states. Almost 5,900 people on average annually migrated to the Granite State from 2013 to 2017.

Ken Johnson is a professor of sociology and a senior demographer for the University of New Hampshire. Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Johnson to talk about these numbers and what they mean for the state overall.

(Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)

Let's break those numbers down a little bit. One of your findings from looking at this data is that the majority of those 6,000 migrants are under the age of 40. How does that compare to past years?

Well it's certainly an uptick in the number of young migrants to the state of New Hampshire. Actually, during the prior five years between 2008 and 2012 the state was actually losing people in their 20s. It's gone from a modest loss to a modest gain, and there's also been an increase in the number of people in their 30s moving to the state of New Hampshire. And of course when you have family age populations like that coming to the state, they bring children with them. So the number of children moving to New Hampshire has also increased.

But these numbers are still modest compared to what we saw in the 80s and 90s right?

Oh that's absolutely true. This is not anything near the scale of migration during that period. It is better than the state did during the Great Recession when there was almost no domestic net migration to the state.

And we talk all the time about how desperate the state has been to recruit and retain young people. What are some of the reasons we're seeing behind this migration of younger people? 

Well one of the things that I'm seeing in the data, and not just for New Hampshire but nationally, is that states like New Hampshire, which had been gaining domestic migrants prior to the recession, stopped gaining them during the Great Recession or else the inflow slowed down dramatically. Whereas states which usually lose domestic migration, like Massachusetts for example, actually lost fewer people. So people were sort of staying frozen in place during the period of the Great Recession and its aftermath through about 2012 or 2013. After that we can see in a number of states, which traditionally have domestic migration into them, that migration has been picking up. And that's what's happening in New Hampshire as well.

What areas of the state have seen an increase in population? As you said, obviously if you're looking at tourism industries, central parts of the state, the mountains the lakes and so on, but are there other areas that you saw that you're seeing a bigger increase than others?

Well the data that was released last Thursday doesn't show the detail of that. But in other data that I've looked at from the Census Bureau you can see that there is considerable growth particularly in Stratford and Rockingham Counties, and there was quite a bit of growth around the lakes. It slowed down a little bit when the recession hit, but it seems to be picking up again as well. I haven't seen very much evidence of growth in the Northern part of the state.

And are people coming mostly from surrounding New England states?

The primary source of migrants, the largest single source of migrants, to New Hampshire is Massachusetts. After that, a number of the other New England states also are major sources of migrants to New Hampshire.

So in some ways the same as it's ever been, I guess.

Yes. We can't see any dramatic change yet in the patterns of migration. It's just the pace, if you will, of migration is accelerating again.

You have talked about the influx of younger adults bringing children into the state -- that bump in the number of children now. I mean, how significant is that increase?

It's significant. I mean it's not unusual in New Hampshire for it to have roughly 6 to 10 percent more kids start the first grade than were born in the state six years previously. So in other words, it's not going to make or break a school system, but it means there may be a few more kids in kindergarten or first grade now than there would have been had that migration not occurred. And of course those people coming to New Hampshire have the potential to have additional children here as well.

How do these numbers impact housing in New Hampshire? There's already imbalance in supply and demand here.

Right. I mean and again recognize that there's a lot of movement going on in the state as well. So this is only part of the story. But when almost 49,000 people move out of the state and 43,000 move in, that's a lot of turnover in housing. And of course it's also going to require some additional housing to be built.

Now another important point is that this migration, although it's significant, it is not going to offset the issues that New Hampshire faces confronting an aging population. That population aging is primarily a function of the people already in the state. And so the housing market is going to have to adjust also to the fact that you're going to have more people needing the kind of housing that is more attractive to older adults, which produces a lot of empty housing for younger family-aged couples. So the calculus of what's going on with housing in the state is going to be pretty complicated.