Essay: Attracting a Diverse Population

Access to Higher Education Must Improve

The World Population Review ranks New Hampshire as one of the most educated states in the United States. If those with some college and associate degrees are included, 66% of the total New Hampshire population has some sort of post-secondary education.

This has helped New Hampshire develop a diverse economy with companies willing to start and locate here and has helped the state compete regionally, nationally and internationally.

An educated workforce is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, strengths for the state. This high level of education also allows the state to maintain a diverse, engaged and balanced political culture, which supports and highlights the importance of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation-status.

These strengths will be tested in the coming decades as its workforce continues to age out and its native born have less children.  According to the Carsey Institute of Public Policy, in 2020 the median age in New Hampshire was 43, making the state the second oldest after Maine. Also, according to the World Population Review, New Hampshire has the third largest (92%) White population in the country after Maine and Vermont.

Aging out of the workforce, and the trends of the young and native-born leaving the state and/or choosing not to have children may lead one to think that New Hampshire may be on the decline, but this may not be the case. New Hampshire has always benefitted from in-migration. In the 1980s and 1990s, there was a significant in-migration from Massachusetts as families from that state sought a less expensive and higher quality of life tied to the natural ecosystem and recreational opportunities. While this trend continues, it has slowed significantly. Also, the patterns for in-migration are changing and highlight how the state is changing.

In particular, the growth in the Latino community and other non-White ethnic and racial groups is beginning to fill-in where mostly White Massachusetts residents left off. This shift will continue to benefit New Hampshire in myriad ways, but it will also be a departure. The continuing growth and diversity of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color) peoples will create more communities with cultural richness and complexity and, hopefully, more engaged citizens, and new entrepreneurs and business owners.

One potential benefit, as the population becomes more diverse, is that younger, native-born will decide to stay in the state. A survey done several years ago by Stay, Work, Play found that young New Hampshire residents sought more culturally diverse places to work and play. And we are making strides in that direction.

A study funded by the New Hampshire Democracy Fund titled “Latino Demographic Analysis and Trends,” found that while the general population grew by 12% between 2000 thru 2021, the Latino population grew 194% from 20,489 to 60,323.  By 2030, the Latino population of the state is expected to be at 80,000 and by 2040, at 100,000.

Just as important for the economy, the Latino median age is 29, much younger that the median age for White New Hampshire residents of 43. As this rapid growth continues, Latino and other BIPOC peoples will increasingly make up more of the New Hampshire workforce and become ever more important to New Hampshire’s economy.

Currently about 12% of the state’s population is made up of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC). This population increased from 60,500 in 2000 to 176,880 in 2020 (Carsey Institute of Public Policy). A far cry from about 3% 20 years ago. As a consequence of this growth, I am now fortunate to have many BIPOC friends from the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut.

Will Arvelo 2022crh

Courtesy photo

And best of all, they are here to make New Hampshire home for the long haul. Less and less do I hear newer BIPOC residents in the state say to me that they are thinking of leaving because there are no BIPOC communities or resources to serve their needs. Yes, we have a long way to go, but we have made significant strides in the right direction…all to the near and long-term benefit of the state.

While strides have been made across many private and public institutions around diversity, equity and inclusion, we know that BIPOC faculty and staff hired throughout K-16 are not finding the communities they need to thrive. New Hampshire’s higher education institutions are struggling to recruit and retain faculty of color and to start and sustain these critically important communities.

All institutions of higher education in New Hampshire have a moral and ethical obligation to do more. If they hire BIPOC faculty, then they have the responsibility to build a support infrastructure around these individuals as they on-board and work to retain them. Otherwise, they will have wasted much time and treasure to recruit faculty under false pretenses. It is one thing if the resources did not exist, but colleges have resources to move the needle on this.

What they do not have is the will and the passion to stay the course. Any college that surveys the New Hampshire landscape will quickly learn that there are now numerous new resources among the broader community for BIPOC faculty. Just recently I attended New Hampshire’s first Reggae Festival, which is indicative of a quickly changing landscape.

Organizations like the Black Heritage Trail, Business Alliance for People of Color, NAACP (Seacoast, Manchester, Nashua), Center for Justice and Equity, Black Lives Matter, Stay, Work, Play, and many others are changing the landscape and colleges need to create bridges to these organizations to help build healthy communities of BIPOC faculty and staff. Institutions of higher education must do the work of engagement with this community. We are waiting at the ready.

Just as worrisome is the fact that sectors of the BIPOC community are not attaining higher education at the higher levels of the White population. As an example, about 30% of Latinos in New Hampshire have a bachelor’s degree compared to 40% for the non-Hispanic White population (New Hampshire Democracy Fund). If the state is going to maintain its economic competitiveness, it must ensure that this growing BIPOC population receives access to quality K-16 education.

New Hampshire’s BIPOC communities have to ensure that access to a quality education is there for those that are here now and those that will be coming. Your voice must be heard on this. Just as K-16 has an obligation to reach out to our communities, we have an obligation to build bridges as well. If we do this, collectively, we have an opportunity to build more equitable K-16 educational pathways that will benefit all of New Hampshire’s citizens.

As we challenge the status quo for more justice, equity, and access, our poor White communities that have been historically left out will also benefit. The BIPOC community has the leadership and an obligation to engage and push for change.

The success of our youth, vibrancy, and health of all our communities, and competence for our workforce and economy are all riding on our ability to see this and use it to create positive change. Let us not miss this opportunity.

This article is featured in the fall 2023 issue of 603 Diversity.603 Diversity Fall 2023

603 Diversity’s mission is to educate readers of all backgrounds about the exciting accomplishments and cultural contributions of the state’s diverse communities, as well as the challenges faced and support needed by those communities to continue to grow and thrive in the Granite State.

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