Growth in N.H.’s young adult population seen

A mid-decade review of the region’s population trends finds that New England’s growth continues to lag behind the rest of the nation – but there are signs that the well-publicized phenomenon of a declining young adult population may be abating somewhat, at least in northern New England.

According to an analysis of 2004-2006 U.S. Census data by the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, New England’s population grew by 0.2 percent in 2004-06, compared to 2.1 percent growth in the United States. New Hampshire had the strongest population growth in the region – 1.2 percent. Rhode Island was one of only three states to lose population over the period, along with Michigan and Louisiana.

All New England states continue to have young adult (25 to 34 years old) population percentages below the U.S. average of 13.5 percent, and all New England states except Massachusetts rank in the bottom 10 (out of 50) in the percentage of total population that are in this young adult cohort. Massachusetts and Rhode Island had the third and fourth steepest declines in young adult population in the nation, exceeded only by Louisiana and North Dakota.

While the region has been particularly concerned with declines in the population of young adults between 25 and 34 years old, there are signs of a turnaround, according to the analysis.

From 2000 to 2006, the nation as a whole had a slight increase in the young adult population, New England saw a decline of more than 8 percent. But much of that population decrease occurred from 2000 to 2004, when the region experienced a decline of more than 6 percent, according to the analysis.

But by the middle of the decade, the northern New England states all saw growth in their young adult populations that was greater than the U.S. average.

According to the analysis, between 2004 and 2006, Maine’s 25-34 population grew by 4 percent – the 13th fastest in the nation – followed by New Hampshire, at 3.9 percent – 14th fastest – and Vermont, at 2.7 percent, 20th in the nation.

The southern New England states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island had the third- and fourth-steepest young adult population declines in the nation, exceeded by Louisiana and North Dakota.

Nevertheless, all of the New England states, save Massachusetts, rank in the bottom 10 among the 50 states in the percentage of total population that are in the 25-34 cohort.

“This is a relatively unattractive region to younger people,” said fact sheet author Ross Gittell, a senior fellow at the Carsey Institute and James R. Carter Professor of Management at UNH’s Whittemore School of Business and Economics. “This is troubling, as young adults provide a dynamic labor force as well as significant contributions to the cultural, economic, and social life of a region.”

The fact sheet, “Demographic Alert Update: Mid-Decade Population Trends in New England,” is available at