The NYT reported
yesterday on Vermont population trends:
This state of beautiful mountains and popular ski resorts, once a magnet
for back-to-the-landers, is losing young people at a precipitous clip.
John J. Miller spins
at the NRO Corner:
From the land of Howard Dean, Jim Jeffords, and Bernie Sanders: Young
people can't get out of Vermont fast enough, according to this
Fair enough, but is it true? I'm not shy
about making invidious comparisons between my own beloved
New Hampshire and Vermont. For example, the difference
Tax Climate (NH is sixth-best, Vermont is #46) might have something to
do with this, since young folks tend to vacate states without jobs.
And surely the overall state
tax burden (Vermont is sixth-highest, NH is #49) might also
be a part of the explanation for the Vermontian exodus.
The NYT, unfortunately, wastes time on looking at
They point out, for example, that Vermont has the lowest birth rate
of all states. This report
from the National Center on Health Statistics confirms that; Vermont is
actually tied with Maine with a 10.6 birth rate. Utah has the highest
birth rate, 21.2. The US overall birth rate is 14.1
But New Hampshire has a 11.2 birth rate, only 0.6 above Vermont,
and 2.9 below the US rate. So why isn't the NYT writing about
We might as well also look at fertility rate,
since I took the time to look it up:
The NCHS deems the fertility rate to "provide a more refined
picture of geographic variation in childbearing."
And (indeed) Vermont has the lowest state
fertility rate: 51.1, compared to the US rate of 66.1. (Maine's
fertility rate is 52.1, Utah is highest with 92.2.)
New Hampshire, however, is right down there with Vermont and Maine, with
rate of 52.7. (1.6 above Vermont, 13.4 below the US rate.)
So, again, why isn't the NYT reporting this about New
Another statistic reported by the NYT
is the Census Bureau's projection
of state population trends until 2030. Which, as near as I can tell,
managed to get wrong. They claim 30.4% of
Vermont's population will be 65
or older in 2030; in contrast (they claim) 25.7% of the US's population
will be 65 or older then.
But the Census Bureau's spreadsheet
(Excel, sorry) puts these values at 24.4% for Vermont, and 19.7% for the
US. Vermont's projected to be the eighth "oldest" state in 2030. Maine,
in contrast, is projected to be second only to Florida in geezer
population (26.5%) in 2030. New Hampshire's projection is 21.4, which
puts it in a more comfortable 17th place. (Update: I misread
and the NYT is actually correct. Please see here.)
The NYT also gets this wrong:
While Vermont's population of young people shrinks, the number of older
residents is multiplying because Vermont increasingly attracts retirees
from other states. It is now the second-oldest state, behind Maine.
According to the Census Bureau, the "oldest" state in the 2000 Census
was (of course) Florida, with 17.6% of its population over 65.
Maine was 12th (14.4%) and Vermont was in 31st place (12.7%). I doubt
things changed that much in 6 years.
What about total population? This is where you really
see a difference.
The Census Bureau expects
Vermont's population to grow by 16.9 percent between 2000 and 2030.
In comparison, the the US projected population
growth is 29.2%; NH's is 33.2%,
Maine's is (only) 10.7%. (North Dakota trails the pack with a projected 5.5%
drop in population, a neat trick considering nobody lives there
in the first place.)
How you feel about this mainly reflects how you feel about population
growth in the first place. But the easiest point of
comparison is that NH's population
is projected to grow significantly
above the national average, while Vermont's and
Maine's growth rates will be below-average.
So the NYT is mistaken to point to birth rate data to explain
since New Hampshire is able to maintain (relatively) high population
growth with (similarly) low birth rates.
Speculation: what Vermont is seeing (and Maine, too) is the
inevitable result of anti-growth policies pursued
for years. They thought (with all "good intentions") that
they could limit
"growth" while somehow keeping other things, like a healthy population
of young folks, the same.
The NYT, to its credit, at least gingerly touches on such issues.
Young people can't afford housing, which is purchased by retirees
instead. Vermont voters are terrified of "overdevelopment", so place
onerous restrictions on new housing. And, finally, there's the
Vermont has also lost many good-paying jobs, driving away many
well-educated young people and further discouraging businesses.
Of course, it is
the New York Times
no mention is made of parasitic
levels of taxation
as a possible cause of "lost" jobs. The only mention of taxes
is the current governor
bewailing that that there won't be enough tax revenue in the future due to
The governor has also proposed "giving college scholarships requiring
students to stay in Vermont for three years after graduating".
I can imagine your average Vermont wigh school senior weighing (a)
tuition break versus
(b) a real good chance at being unemployed for three years afterward.
Hm. Tough choice!
With any luck, New Hampshire will be able to continue
to look at Vermont as a
shining example of what not to do to maintain economic health.