New Hampshire’s shrinking birth rates and shuttered schools offer preview for the Nation

By: | June 23, 2021

Long before the emergence of COVID-19, schools around the United States were experiencing an erosion in their enrollment numbers. Our nationwide K-12 enrollment, roughly 55 million kids, remains one of the largest in the world. But birth rates have slipped ever since the Great Recession, first abruptly, then persistently. When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data on population growth in May, few experts were surprised to see that total births had fallen to their lowest number since 1979. Over 700,000 fewer babies were born in 2020 than in 2007, the year the financial crisis began, even though there are now significantly more women in their child-bearing years.

Fertility rates vary significantly by state, from the comparative peaks in the Dakotas to the aged and declining population in Vermont. New Hampshire, with 48.2 births per 1,000 women aged 15-44, ranks above only its Green Mountain neighbor in general fertility. If not for the impressive influx of migrants from other states, drawn equally by its natural beauty and high quality of life, New Hampshire’s population would also be shrinking. And fewer children means fewer students; Manchester, the state’s economic capital and largest school district by far, has lost more than one-fifth of its enrollment over the last decade.

With no rebound in sight — the pandemic has clearly suppressed family formation — what’s already happened there may well be coming to a school near you.

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