"N.H. has lowest birthrate in nation: US Census reports similar findings in other N.E. states"
By Associated Press, August 22, 2008
WASHINGTON - The stork apparently has trouble landing in New England.
New Hampshire has the lowest, Vermont the second-lowest, Rhode Island the third-lowest, Massachusetts the seventh-lowest, and Maine the eighth-lowest birth rates in the country.
A new US Census Bureau report says that in 2006, New Hampshire's birthrate was 42 babies per 1,000 women of childbearing age. The national rate was 54.9 births per thousand.
Vermont had a rate of 42.2; Rhode Island's was 45; Massachusetts' was 46.1; and Maine's was 47.3.
In Vermont, officials say the low rate could accelerate a demographic shift that threatens to shrink the state's workforce.
"Everybody has interpreted the shrinking population of working-age people as a mass exodus by young people out of Vermont, but that's really a very small part of the story," Art Woolf, a University of Vermont economist, told The Times Argus. "The biggest part of the story is that people just aren't being born."
Kevin Dorn, secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, said the shortage of working-age Vermonters is a major economic hurdle facing the state. In the past year, Vermont's workforce fell by about 2,000.
"This low birthrate is a component of a much bigger problem," Dorn said.
The median age of Vermont's workforce is 42.3, the highest in the nation.
And the Vermont Department of Labor estimates that the workforce will shrink in the next two decades as wage-earners reach retirement age.
Governor James Douglas said efforts to bolster the workforce by drawing young professionals back to the state is crucial to economic development.
"Employers cite adequacy of the workforce as one major concern for future success here," Douglas told the newspaper. "We have employers who have created good jobs and want to create more, but they need a qualified workforce to take those jobs."
Recognizing a similar potential workforce problem in New Hampshire, the state university system and business leaders are working together to try to encourage college graduates to stay in the state. They'd like to increase the retention rate from 50 percent to 55 percent. Thus the group's name: The 55 Percent Initiative.
In a survey, in-state and out-of-state students said New Hampshire has a high quality of life, is a good place to raise a family, has available housing, and is close to natural resources.
But 40 percent of graduates said they believe there are few or no jobs in their field in New Hampshire.
"N.H. median age hike has consequences"
seacoastonline.com - Opinion - May 18, 2009
New Hampshire is aging at a rapid pace and now has the fourth oldest population in the nation, with a median age of 40.2. It's tied with Florida, a sunny wonderland of retirees.
"This is a major story ... the fact that we're aging so fast," said Peter Francese, a preeminent demographer who lives on the Seacoast.
Francese has been crunching local data and warning of dire impacts of an imbalanced state population for 10 years now. He, and the newspaper in reporting his statistical analyses, have been criticized for somehow being against the elderly. This is simply not the case. The point Francese makes is valid, and if the state's population was only naturally aging, it would be a different story — but it's not.
There are many factors causing New Hampshire to gray before our very eyes. There is the still relatively and comparatively expensive housing stock that shuts out many younger people and families, forcing them to leave the state. This, in part, is being driven by our restrictive housing policies. Those who can live here must earn more money to afford to do so, which in turn contributes to a less-favorable business climate.
Yes, the rate of aging is attributable in part to the population swell known as the Baby Boom. However, the fact that New Hampshire ranks as one of the oldest states in the nation clearly suggests there are factors beyond the Baby Boomers.
There are very real and significant problems lurking if the state's population continues to age at its current pace. One is the continued difficulty of businesses to replenish work forces as boomers retire. Another is the rising cost of Medicaid, which is covered by our counties, and ultimately us as taxpayers. Further still is the shifting of the economy toward one segment of the population, and a diversified economy is the strongest kind of economies.
But there is an even greater impact, and this one clearly shows how state and local policies can, and are, aiding the aging of New Hampshire. The state Legislature enacted a law that rules older residents only have to live in New Hampshire for three years before becoming eligible for elderly exemptions, which reduce what they must pay in property taxes.
The concept of an elderly exemption is a great thing. It helps keep longtime residents in their homes by reducing their property tax burden, and New Hampshire's taxation policy most burdens this group as it's not relative to one's ability to pay. However, someone who has lived here just three years frankly does not deserve a property tax exemption. That is not the spirit in which the concept was created.
Towns seemingly on an annual basis increase the amount of exemption for the elderly. This generous forgiveness does not slow spending at the state and local levels. By all accounts, it has no impact on spending, other than perhaps a growing movement against financial support of local schools. This loss of tax revenue is simply shifted onto younger taxpayers, and particularly so on homeowners, who tend to be ages 30 to 54. As Francese said, the rapid rise in the older population comes at the expense of working families in the age bracket of 30 to 44. This is a group that drives business.
Francese did report some encouraging numbers. The population ages 15 to 29 increased, with the largest growth in the 20 to 24 group, which rose 19 percent over the last eight years, nearly double the U.S. rate. However, many of these young people live with their parents, and if well-paying jobs and affordable housing further dissipates, so will this population, exacerbating all of the aforementioned problems.
Yes, Francese is right: This is a major story. The question remains, however, when will local and state officials begin to honestly address the problem?
- Jonathan Melle
- Amherst, NH, United States
- I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": berkshireeagle.blogspot.com / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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