Patterns of growth A brief overview of New Hampshire’s shifting population: 1950-2010 March 2011
Mapping the growth A helpful way to visualize shifts in New Hampshire’s population is to compare the maps used to draw the state’s Executive Council districts over the decades. The five districts are supposed to be roughly equal in population, and their boundaries are redrawn every ten years to reflect population changes. Thus, the shifting size of each district is a good measure of regional population changes over a given period. That said…..To the maps!
Here is New Hampshire at mid-century. What does this map tell us about the state’s population at that time? Some obvious points: The district covering NH’s north (in pink) is the largest, a reflection of the region’s spread-out population. The district centered on Manchester (in brown) is the smallest, an indication of the large population packed into that area. More interestingly, the remaining three districts are roughly equal in size, as they hold similar population sizes. District 5 (in green), covering Merrimack and Sullivan counties and the western Lakes Region, has about the same population as District 2 (in yellow), which includes nearly all of Rockingham County and large chunks of Belknap County. Let’s see how that distribution changes over the decades. 1950 3
By 1970, some major changes are clear. First, the North Country district has grown considerably, reaching deep into Belknap County to cover much of the Lakes Region: Laconia, Belmont, Alton, Gilford, and several other towns. That tells us that the state’s northern reaches have seen a considerable decline in population since 1950. Another big change: The districts covering the Seacoast (in yellow) and southern Hillsborough County (in purple) have shrunk. That means those areas have seen a big increase in population, with more people packed into a smaller area. The district centered on Manchester (in brown), however, is roughly the same size, indicating that the population of the city and its immediate suburbs has remained relatively stable as a share of total state population. 1970
Two decades later, continued population decline in the North Country has further increased the southern reach of District 1, which now includes large population centers such as Newport and Claremont. The district centering on Manchester (District 4) retains much the same size, though it has shed three towns to neighboring districts. Similarly, the Seacoast district (in yellow) has stayed about the same size. Meanwhile, steady population growth in southern Hillsborough and Cheshire counties is reflected in the further shrinkage of District 5 (in purple.) 1990
What’s next? • Figures released by the 2010 U.S. Census this week illustrate the continuance of trends from past decades. New Hampshire’s total population grew 6.5 percent over the past decade, with Hillsborough and Rockingham counties seeing the largest increases. Much smaller increases were seen in the state’s northern and western regions. • Will those population changes require a new redrawing of the council district boundaries in the coming months? What will that map look like in 2012 – or 2022?
Want more? • For more information on New Hampshire demographic trends, as well as many other public policy issues, visit the Center’s website at nhpolicy.org. • Check us out on Facebook: facebook.com/nhpolicy