Part 1: Which NH Counties Won New Residents–And Lost Old Ones

Kristin Wall / Flickr

Compared to the rest of the nation's counties, you could say New England has more challengers than contenders. Find out who's racking up the most wins--and losses--after the jump

Yesterday, we linked to a nifty map generated by Jon Bruner of Forbes.  (We still recommend you check it out.)  Using IRS data, he was able to trace where people in every county in the country were moving to–and from–since 2005.

Since New England’s been experiencing a shortage of young, working-age people–and their kids–for some time now, we thought this research would be of particular interest to our StateImpact readers.  At the risk of oversimplifying the issue, the region’s problem basically boils down to this:  If we can’t get more young people to move to New England and start having kids, we’re going to have a hard time replenishing our workforce–and our tax base–farther down the line.

So, as promised yesterday, here’s a county-by-county analysis of the data.*  For brevity’s sake, we’ll be looking at the Lakes Region, White Mountains, North Country, and most of Dartmouth-Sunapee today.  Later on, we’ll have a look at the rest of Dartmouth-Sunapee, the Merrimack Valley, Seacoast, and Monadnock Region.

For fun’s sake, we’re looking at this in terms of wins-and-losses.

Over-simplified?  Maybe.

More fun than a mid-autumn’s stroll through migration figures?  You betcha.

Since there’s migratory data available for every year, we’ll give you the overview of trends from the period measured, from 2005-2009.  But for specific numbers  info–wins and losses–we’ll be focusing only on the most recent data–people coming and going during 2009.

Thanks to Lake Winnipesaukee and other natural amenities, Belknap County hasn't seen its population of in-migrants dipping too badly

Belknap County: 

The Overarching Story: Belknap County is one of New Hampshire’s vacation home and amenity retirement meccas.  So unsurprisingly, perhaps, from 2005-2008, this county saw more in-migration than out-migration.  But by 2009, the number of people coming and going was nearly the same, perhaps reflecting changes in the area’s housing market.

Biggest Wins In 2009:

  • 302 from Grafton County
  • 172 from Carroll County
  • 160 from Rockingham County

Biggest Losses In 2009

  • 798 to Merrimack County
  • 240 to Hillsborough County
  • 186 to Strafford County
  • 74 to Middlesex County, Mass.

Farthest Out-Of-State Losses

  • Los Angeles County, California
  • Maricopa County, Arizona

Carroll County:

The Overarching Story: Like Belknap County, Carroll County is known as a prime place for amenity retirement, second homes, and general recreation.  And its profile looks very similar to its neighbor’s.  From 2005-2008, Carroll County also saw distinct net gains in population.  But by 2009, its in-migration and out-migration of residents was virtually the same.  But Carroll County didn’t see in-migration numbers nearly as high as Belknap’s.

Biggest Wins:

    • 49 from Merrimack County
    • 205 from Strafford County
    • 42 from Grafton County
    • 42 from Coos County
    • And, as a major retirement destination, it’s probably not surprising that pretty much every county from Worcester, Mass, east, lost more people to Carroll County than they took away from there.

Biggest Losses:

    • 104 to Oxford County, Maine
    • 81 to York County, Maine
    • 71 to Cumberland County, Maine
    • 49 to Merrimack County

Farthest Out-Of-State Losses:

  • Lee County, Florida
  •  Palm Beach County, Florida

Coos County: 

The rural scenery of Coos County hasn't been enough to keep some residents from leaving--but the area's also drawn lots of transplants from suprirsing places

The Overarching Story:  From 2005-2009, the story of Coos County’s population has mainly been one of decline.  That’s not surprising, given the area’s struggles with a contracting job market over a number of years.  Back in 2005, the area saw a promising spike in new residents, with people moving to the area outnumbering those who left.  The very next year, however, they pulled even, and from 2007-2009, the gap between those coming and going expanded.

Biggest Wins:

  • 209 from Grafton County
  • 39 from Strafford County
  • 36 from Rockingham.

Biggest Losses:

  • 100 to Hillsborough County
  • 61 to Merrimack County
  • 80 to Essex County, Vermont

Farthest Out-Of-State Losses:

  • Middlesex County, Mass.

Grafton County:


One of the drivers of Grafton County's farther-afield-than-normal migratory patterns is likely Dartmouth College

The Overarching Story: Grafton County’s seen some ups-and-downs in population over the years.  This isn’t surprising, given the presence of Dartmouth College and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.  Basically, people are constantly coming and going for undergraduate or graduate education, fellowships, and research opportunities, among other things.  And all of that shows up in the data.  From 2005-2006, people coming to Grafton County outnumbered those who were leaving.  They were about even in 2007, then in 2008, the number of people coming into the area outpaced those leaving again.  By 2009, however, out-migrants just inched ahead of in-migrants.

Biggest Wins:

  • 386 from Windsor County, Vermont
  • Other north and central Vermont counties also lost people to Grafton, as did most of Massachusetts and parts of Connecticut, although not in appreciable numbers compared to the Windsor figure–30 people here, 23 there, in a way that’s rather evenly spread out.

Biggest Losses:

  • 355 to Merrimack County
  • 209 to Coos County
  • 161 to Hillsborough County

Farthest Out-Of-State Losses:

  • Los Angeles County, California
  • San Diego County, California
  • King County, Washington
  • Gallatin County (Bozeman), Montana


*The Forbes map doesn’t break down migratory patterns by age.  Some of the people moving to the South, for example, could very well be retirees who are tired of New Hampshire winters.  But it does provide a good starting point.

It’s also important to note that in some cases, whether one county gained or lost people to another is sometimes determined by a small handful of mobile residents–and sometimes, even just one person.


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