Northern New England’s Demographic Woes

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The states of Northern New England have a long history of population booms and busts. Many parts are littered with cellar holes of past homesteads. Unfortunately, Northern New England is staring at another population bust in the coming decades for two reasons.

First, the birthrate has plummeted which means there are fewer children today than in past years. In fact, as the first chart below shows, the population of people “under 18 years” has plummeted by 9 percent. In contrast, the population of people “over 65” has soared by 17 percent.

Chart Showing Northern New England Population Growth by Age Cohort 2000 to 2010

Second, as a result, Northern New England is more dependent on migration from other states to support population growth. When in-migration dries up, then population growth stalls. This has been especially problematic in the past few years since the housing bubble burst because folks can’t sell their house which means fewer people are moving into the region.

The chart below shows the consequences–zero population growth since the “Great Recession” began. Maine has actually seen a decline in population over the last few years while Vermont has continued to grow (New Hampshire has been flat-lined).

Chart Showing Northern New England Population 2000 to 2010

Overall, this is bad news for the historic towns and villages in Northern New England. If a long-term population decline sets in, which looks to be the case, then there simply won’t be enough people to care for our historic homes. It already takes a special person to buy and restore a 200-plus year old house in need of serious TLC.

In the long-term, we need to encourage more families to move into (or stay) Northern New England–which is one reason why this website exists. This will be a long and difficult journey, but solutions are out there. Perhaps the Hardwick, Vermont model based on local agriculture is one solution. Anyone else have any ideas? Do share . . .

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