2020 Census data shows increased population and racial diversity in Upper Valley towns

Hanover’s population grew by 5.4% from 2010 to 2020, while Lebanon’s population increased by 8.6%.

by Griselda Chavez and Lauren Azrin | 10/15/21 5:00am

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by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Data from the 2020 Census, released in August 2021, showed a marked increase in New Hampshire’s population — including the towns of Hanover and Lebanon. Since the last census conducted in 2010, Hanover’s population has increased by 5.4% andLebanon’s has increased by 8.6%. 

The state of New Hampshire experienced a 4.6% population increase overall, larger than the 6.5% increase between 2000 and 2010. Vermont’s population grew by 2.8% from 2010 to 2020.

In terms of racial diversity, New Hampshire emerged as one of the four states with the highest percentage of white residents, along with Maine, West Virginia and Vermont  — all of which are  over 88% white. Additionally, three of those four states — Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont — are host to the greatest percentage of population over the age of 18; each has an adult population above 81%

According to Census.gov, the Census is intended to count every resident of the U.S. every 10 years, with the primary goal of determining the number of seats each state should be alloted in the U.S. House of Representatives. Based on the 2020 Census data, New Hampshire will not experience any changes to its representation in Congress.

Lebanon mayor Timothy McNamara said that the city’s population increase is a growth rate that he has “never seen before.” He attributed this growth to the new availability of housing in the area, with 1,300 new units of housing added in Lebanon in the past two to three years — a 15% to 20% increase in the number of housing units.

McNamara also noted that the new housing availability shifts the local population toward a “rental demographic,” whose population will skew on the younger side. 

“I think a community that is diverse, including age diversity, is the healthiest community you can have,” McNamara said.

The percentage of Lebanon that identified as non-Hispanic white has declined slightly since 2010. That year, the Census found that 86.5% of the population was non-Hispanic white, whereas in 2019 — granular race and ethnicity data is not yet available for 2020 — the percentage was 85.1%. 

McNamara said that he has been happy to see an increase in the racial diversity of the local population. 

“I grew up here 50 years ago — it was a very homogeneous community,” he said. “We did not have much diversity — religious, racial or otherwise. I am very encouraged that that has increased over time, because I think it just strengthens our community and makes us all better people, and I do hope that that continues.” 

According to University of New Hampshire sociology professor and demographer Ken Johnson, the white population is older than the Upper Valley’s minority population, which means that minority populations may continue to increase. could possibly explain the increased representation of minority populations in the region. 

“A larger proportion of the minority populations of women are in their childbearing years, so there are more of them to have children,” Johnson said.

According to geography professor Richard Wright, one reason for increased diversity may be due to the recent addition of a “multiracial” option in the Census, giving more people the option to identify their mixed backgrounds. He added that another reason for the increased diversity in the Upper Valley may be a refugee resettlement policy in Vermont and certain parts of New Hampshire that disperses refugees to rural areas due to their low living costs. 

“Smaller municipalities are looking to grow the population, so they see refugees as a sort of demographic stimulus to their populations,” Wright said.

Wright also noted that he thinks people are drawn to the economic opportunities in the smaller municipalities in the Upper Valley. According to the Valley News, these economic conditions can be attributed to “communities in the education, technology and health care services field growing” — especially in areas surrounding Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Dartmouth itself. 

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