What the 2020 Census means to NH and why it matters

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Why it matters: $1,500,000,000,000 of federal dollars per year for public services is allocated by the census.

Story Produced by New Hampshire Public Radio, a member of

The census is the government’s attempt to count every person living in the U.S., regardless of citizenship status. It guides major decisions about federal spending and political power. The 2020 census numbers will be used for legislative redistricting and for calculating how the federal government divvies up trillions of dollars for healthcare, social services, transportation, and schools.

They also help us understand the racial and ethnic makeup of New Hampshire, and other demographic trends and how those are changing over time.

Migration, Aging, and Diversity: What We Know So Far About N.H.

We spoke with UNH demographer Ken Johnson about the early takeaways from the data on Morning Edition. Here are some details he shared.

Four Things To Know About N.H. And The Census

  • The state of New Hampshire grew by 4.6% between 2010 and 2020, the second-highest percentage in New England. Only Massachusetts grew faster.
  • Over 80 percent of the growth in the state’s population was because of migration. There were only about 65,000 more births than deaths in the state, significantly fewer than in the previous decade.
  • We don’t have much detailed data on the aging population in N.H. But estimates show the older population in New Hampshire is increasing while the younger population is decreasing. 
  • New Hampshire is becoming more diverse, but not anywhere near as diverse as the rest of the country. In 2010 it was 94% non-Hispanic white; now it is 88 percent non-Hispanic white. Hillsborough County is the most diverse county in the state.

Modest Growth Across N.H., With Population Decreases In Some Rural Areas

New Hampshire’s population grew by 4.6 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. The state now has about 1.4 million residents.

Rockingham and Strafford counties grew the most, at around 6 percent each. Most of this growth was driven by in-migration rather than births.

The state’s two largest cities, Manchester and Nashua, each grew at a rate of 5.5 percent, the same rate as Hillsborough County as a whole.

Cheshire and Sullivan counties saw slight population decreases, while Coos County saw a 5 percent decrease, the largest in the state.

3 counties lose population as New Hampshire adds diversity

New Hampshire’s northernmost county is no longer alone in losing population, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released Thursday that show populations also shrunk in two other counties over the last decade.

Already the most sparsely populated, Coos County had been the only one of the state’s 10 counties to lose population between 2000 and 2010. The new figures show that trend accelerating, with a 5% decline from 2010 to 2020.

Small population declines also were seen in the southwest corner of the state, where Cheshire County’s population dropped by about 1% and Sullivan County’s dropped by less than 2%.

Overall, the state’s population grew by 4.6% to 1,377,529. The biggest growth came in Belknap, Rockingham and Strafford counties, which each grew by 6%. In the previous decade, Strafford, Carroll and Grafton counties were the fastest growing.

The new figures also show that New Hampshire, historically one of the whitest states, is becoming a bit more diverse, shifting from 94% white to 88%. That makes it the fourth whitest state, behind Vermont, Maine and West Virginia.

The percent of the population identifying themselves as Hispanic or Latino increased by more than 60%, the sixth-largest percentage change in the nation. But the population remains small at 4.3%.

The figures also show New Hampshire remaining one of the oldest states, ranking fourth behind Washington, D.C., Vermont and Maine for its percentage of residents age 18 and over. The 18+ population increased 9% to 81% of the total.

-Holly Ramer, The Associated Press

A note on the accuracy of the data collected in the 2020 census

The pandemic upended census operations in 2020, particularly in-person outreach efforts to renters, low-income families, college students, and people of color who are historically undercounted. Many census watchers say rushed door-knocking efforts and thwarted attempts by the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the census may have also led to incomplete data and an undercount in immigrant communities.

But the Census Bureau says the response rate in New Hampshire and the U.S. was nearly 100 percent, and the data is accurate.

Learn more about what the Census Data can — and can’t—  tell us, from NPR’s Hansi Lo Wang.

What’s new about the 2020 census?

The 2020 census added a few new questions. For the first time, it gave couples living together the option of identifying as “same-sex” or “opposite-sex.” It also allowed you to write in a racial or ethnic identity (i.e. Irish, Haitian, Iraqi) if you identify as non-Hispanic and either white and/or Black.

Why does the census matter?

The census population count guides major decisions about federal spending and political power for the next ten years.

Experts estimate that the federal government sends over $1.5 trillion each year to states, municipalities, and nonprofits based on those areas’ population counts. In New Hampshire, that number is estimated at $6.5 billion annually, most of which goes to Medicare and Medicaid. The rest goes to a slew of initiatives for roads, hospitals, community development, schools, and low-income residents.

Data from the 2020 census will also guide the process of redistricting and reapportionment of political power. Some states may lose or gain a representative (or more) to the U.S. House of Representatives, based on the new population count. This won’t happen in New Hampshire, but local municipalities may see changes in the number of state reps they send to Concord.

The census also reveals demographic changes that illuminate a state and region’s shifting identity. In New Hampshire, data gathered since the 2010 census suggest that the percentage of people of color living in the state could soon reach 10 percent. If counted accurately, certain census tracts in cities like Manchester and Nashua will have much higher percentages of people of color.

-Sarah Gibson and Sara Plourde, NHPR

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org

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