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  • Source: Census 2010, chart by Carsey Institute.
    The 2010 age structure in New Hampshire shows the "bulge" caused by the Baby Boom population, compared to births in later decades. This is a major factor in the state's relatively high median age.
  • Source: Carsey Institute
    The natural increase in New Hampshire's poplation - number of births minus number of deaths - was relatively steady over the past decade, but many more people are leaving than entering the state.
  • Source: Carsey Institute
    Greater Nashua has the highest percentage of children in the state. This shows percentage of population under age 18, by Census tract.
  • Source: Carsey Institute
    Greater Nashua has a relatively low percentage of seniors, compared to the White Mountains and north country. This map shows percentage of population over age 64, by Census tract.
  • Source: Carsey Institute
    This chart shows the 2010 racial/ethnic makeup of New Hampshire's adult population - people over age 18.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Baby boom still dominates New Hampshire demographics

New Hampshire will face a number of issues in coming years related to its relatively old and aging population, and a big reason for it is a trend behind so much of life in modern America: the baby boom. As is made clear in a new report from a University of New Hampshire think tank, people born in the late 1950s and 1960s continue to outnumber any other age group in New Hampshire. As baby boomers go gray – the eldest turned 65 last year – their dominance skews the state’s average age and fuels concerns about retirement and medical costs, among other things.

“The population age 65 and over will almost certainly double in the next two decades. In contrast, the number of children in the state diminished between 2000 and 2010, and the number of young adults and family-age residents increased only modestly,” wrote demographer Ken Johnson in the report.

The conclusion in one of many in the sweeping report from Johnson, senior demographer for the Carsey Institute at UNH.

The report, titled “New Hampshire Demographic Trends in the Twenty-First Century,” covers many issues that have been discussed for years by Johnson and many other groups.

The Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, for example, has held discussion sessions about a shortage of young adult workers, compared to the older group of workers nearing retirement. New Hampshire has launched an entire program called Stay Work Play designed to lure and retain college graduates.

Johnson has long argued that most of this shortage is not the result of young adults leaving New Hampshire after graduating from college, but is a reflection of relatively low birth rates by the post-World War II population explosion known as the baby boom, particularly for the white non-Hispanics who make up the majority of the state’s population.

“The decline in births during the 1970s and the surge in births during the 1980s were due, in large part, to the delayed fertility of the baby boomers. Women born during the baby boom put off marriage and children to take advantage of the expanding opportunities for education and employment. This caused a birth dearth in the early 1970s,” Johnson wrote. That birth dearth was reflected in a decline of 30-something state residents starting at the turn of the millennium.

Young adults between ages 25 and 45, particularly well-educated ones, are a major component to an area’s economic growth. Many economists have argued that a portion of New Hampshire’s economic success since the 1980s has resulted from its appeal to well-educated baby boomers who moved into the state, usually from other parts of New England, when it came time to settle down. Those boomers are now aging into what another think tank, the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy, calls a “silver tsunami.”

“Now is the time to prepare for this Silver Tsunami. … A rapid increase in New Hampshire’s senior population is inevitable, and it is coming soon,” Johnson wrote.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or