“Demographic Winter” Tightens Grip on Northern New England

Table Showing Demographic Winter in Northern New England for 2011

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As we’ve become more aware of this new phenomena being called “Demographic Winter,” we have grown more scared of it. In a nutshell, Northern New England is heading for a state where there are too few young people to support current population levels.

Depending on how deep this goes in Northern New England, this will create major challenges for keeping our architectural heritage intact–fewer people will mean more empty/abandoned houses. It doesn’t take long for an abandoned house to succumb to the weather around here . . . check out these abandoned buildings in Vermont for example.

So, when we learned that the U.S. Census Bureau recently released new demographic data by county for 2011 we had to check out. Be forewarned, it is not a pretty picture.

As shown in the table above, Northern New England’s population grew by only 2,718 people which is pretty anemic. More troubling, the majority of the 40 counties in Northern New England (58 percent) actually saw a declining population. Some of that was due to people leaving as total migration saw 1,235 people leave Northern New England–of course, this begs the question, why would anyone leave?

Where Demographic Winter comes into the picture is in the column labeled “Natural Increase” which shows that 48 percent of counties had fewer births than deaths . . . Yikes! Maine had the worst showing with 10 out of 16 counties with a negative natural increase and one county exactly at zero. One would think hitting exactly zero is rare, but apparently not as Vermont had two counties like that.

How will Northern New England overcome these growing demographic challenges. Well, we believe that if new life can be breathed into the good ol’fashioned family farm, then perhaps larger families will grow along with them. That’s why we are big fans of the agricultural renaissance going on in Hardwick, Vermont . . . you may also want to check out Ben Hewitt’s new blog who is the author of “The Town that Food Saved.”

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