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New England Growing Slowly, Becoming More Diverse

By Beth Potier, Media Relations
February 20, 2008

A new demographic report from the Carsey Institute at UNH finds that New England is becoming more racially diverse, growing more slowly than the rest of the nation, and that there are sharp contrasts between the demographic trends in northern and southern New England as well as between trends in metropolitan and rural areas.

The report, “The Changing Faces of New England: Increasing Spatial and Racial Diversity,” notes that New England’s population stood at 14.27 million in July 2006, marking a gain of just 2.5 percent since 2000, less than half the national rate.

“Demographic trends in New England are quite complex,” says report author Kenneth M. Johnson, senior demographer for the Carsey Institute and visiting professor of sociology at UNH. “Metropolitan Boston has lost 230,000 residents to domestic migration since 2000 and is growing at less than half the rate of the 1990s. In contrast, growth has accelerated in rural New England since 2000 because urban sprawl and recreational and scenic amenities are attracting migrants.”

Johnson notes that New England’s geographic and economic diversity—comprising densely settled urban cores, sprawling suburbs, struggling industrial towns, fast growing recreational and amenity areas and isolated rural villages—is echoed in the diverse patterns of population change within the region. Among the report’s highlights:

  • Racial diversity increased in New England due to a gain of 407,000 in its minority population. The white population declined by 60,000.
  • New England lost nearly $6 billion dollars of income in migration exchanges with other areas of the country between 2001 and 2005.
  • Population growth rates were higher in northern New England which had positive net in-migration. Southern New England is losing migrants to other parts of the United States.
  • The modest overall population gain in New England occurred because the immigration of 341,000 and the excess of births over deaths (285,000) were sufficient to offset the loss of 279,000 migrants to other areas of the U.S. New England gains migrants from the Mid-Atlantic states and immigration, but loses many migrants to the South and West.
  • Massachusetts has lost so many domestic migrants that even substantial immigration was not sufficient to offset it. In contrast, New Hampshire gained the most migrants, with most coming from Massachusetts, but also from other U.S. destinations.

Growth patterns in metropolitan areas, particularly Boston, contrast sharply with those in rural areas. Despite gaining large numbers of 20- to 29-year-olds from migration, Boston experienced a substantial migration loss of family-age adults and children.

In rural New England, however, population growth is accelerating, with a 20 percent greater annual gain since 2000 compared to the 1990s. Nonmetropolitan New England is the only part of the region gaining migrants from within the United States. Population growth rates are highest in a broad band around the outer edge of the Boston metropolitan area, including much of southern New Hampshire, as well as in the rural amenity areas of northern New England.

“The demographic change in New England is complex, but its impact is not. We see it reflected in the diminished community capacity and increasing difficulties that North Country communities face in providing basic services to the dwindling, aging populations. It is also evident in the strained infrastructure, pressed institutions, and rising housing costs in communities that are growing rapidly because of urban sprawl or migration to New England’s high amenity areas,” Johnson says. “The loss of 282,000 domestic migrants and the $6 billion of income they earn needs to be considered in policy discussions about the needs of the people, organizations, and institutions of New England.”

To read the full report, go to:


For more information about the Carsey Institute, go to www.carseyinstitute.unh.edu.

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