Love It/Love It Not




Two sides of the state’s population boom.If “New Hampshire” and “Population Growth” had a Facebook relationship status it would be “It’s Complicated.”

For decades New Hampshire has been one of the fastest-growing states in the country: The current population of 1.3 million is nearly double what it was in 1970.

Population growth statistics are not just for census geeks. These numbers define where our kids go to school, our commute to work, our property taxes and home prices, what kinds of jobs are available, what leaders we elect and the rural/urban balance that makes up our state’s character. (It should be noted that two-thirds of the recent growth has occurred in just three counties: Rockingham, Hillsborough and Merrimack.)

With the steady population growth there are the things we love and the things we hate. Let’s consider both:

The good

Most of these new residents are white-collar workers with high education levels and high incomes looking to buy single family houses to raise their kids in or retire. Recently the state has been named the best place to raise kids, the third highest income per capita, the lowest rate of child poverty, the fifth healthiest state, one of the highest percentages of high school and college graduates, the third highest in average household income and has a consistently lower unemployment rate than the national average. If you like where New Hampshire sits in context with the nation then you have one group of people to thank: the new arrivals.

In terms of tax perspective, the state is probably better off with the influx of new people since most are putting in more than they are taking out, especially true for those retirees coming without kids in school.

All of these new people also create a demand for services. They want to fly out of a local airport, buy houses, dine at a nice restaurant, shop at a nearby Target and grocery store, attend concerts and athletic events. Without population growth in the last decade it is hard to imagine Manchester-Boston Regional Airport would have grown the way it has, that minor league hockey and baseball teams would have arrived, or that there would be more stores opening all over the state that are more convenient for the natives and provide jobs. Unlike most of the country our towns are creating new school districts instead of just consolidating. These things aren’t happening in depressing Michigan.

The bad

New Hampshire is no longer just the Live Free or Die state of small towns, low taxes and the Great North Woods. This population growth has changed the state culturally and politically. With the rise of population has come the rise of independent voters who have moved the state away from its staunch Republican voting pattern. Town meetings are being replaced by SB2 ballots where neighbors may not hash out the issues of the day in person. Farms are being replaced by subdivisions. Salem’s strip-mall-laden Route 28 could be anywhere in America.

The Granite State has undergone significant changes very dramatically, most of it a direct result of new residents. And since “Population Growth” is based in fact, not Facebook, we can’t “unfriend” it. Therefore we’ll continue to love it and hate it. NH

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