CONCORD, N.H. - Opponents of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary have long argued that such a white state shouldn’t play such a big role in picking presidents. But new census data released Thursday confirms that parts of the state have grown increasingly diverse.
Though the New Hampshire population overall remains overwhelmingly white - it was 96 percent white in 2000 and 94 percent white in 2010 - minorities now make up 10 percent of the population of Hillsborough County in southern New Hampshire. That’s up from 6 percent in 2000.
“There are tracts in Nashua and Manchester where the minority population of children, particularly, is over 40 percent,” said Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute. “That’s not that different than what you’d see in big, urban cores.”
Every four years when states set their primary and caucus calendars, New Hampshire’s critics argue that the state holds too much power given its small size and lack of diversity. But Johnson said the census figures counter that to some degree.
“When the primary comes and everyone says, ‘New Hampshire is not representative of the rest of the country,’ well, I don’t know. When you look at New Hampshire and some of its detail, it actually is not unlike the rest of the United States,” he said. “If you look only at the state level numbers, it’s not (diverse). But if you look at Hillsborough County, you're seeing a fairly diverse population.”
Just over 2 percent of the county’s 400,721 residents identified themselves as black or African American in 2010. The Asian population grew to 3.2 percent, and the Hispanic or Latino population grew to 5.3 percent.
The state’s overall population grew 6.5 percent to 1.3 million people between 2000 and 2010, making it the region’s fastest growing state over the last decade. It also became one of the oldest, with the median age jumping from 37 to 41. While the number of non-Hispanic white children declined by almost 13 percent, the number of Hispanic children increased by 76 percent.
That trend is in keeping with national census estimates that show a growing age divide between mostly white, older Americans and fast-growing younger ethnic populations.
“New Hampshire sort of echoes national trends on a much more muted level,” Johnson said.
New Hampshire also echoes its neighbors in seeing a large increase in the number of same-sex unmarried couples counted in the census. As in Maine and Vermont, same-sex households account for about 1 in 100 of New Hampshire households, increasing 71 percent from 2,703 in 2000 to 4,635 in 2010.
New Hampshire enacted civil unions in 2007 and made gay marriage legal two years later. Since the marriage law took effect in January 2010, more than 1,500 gay couples have wed or had their civil unions converted into marriages, according to the according to the state division of vital statistics.
Republican lawmakers sponsored two bills this year to repeal the law, but the Legislature postponed action on them until next year. Supporters of the repeal effort believe they have enough votes to pass a bill, but Democratic Gov. John Lynch has promised to veto it, and it's uncertain whether Republicans have enough votes to override a veto.