Southwest NH and, more generally, northern New England, isn’t know as a magnet for international immigration. In fact, it’s the region’s lack of diversity that typically attracts the most attention in press coverage and public conversation. Consequently, some might be surprised to hear that over the last decade, international migration has been the sole source of population growth in at least some parts of Southwest NH.

One way to better understand the underlying dynamics of total population change is to break it up into three different categories: natural increase, domestic migration, and international migration. Natural increase measures the number of births in a given place minus the number of deaths. Domestic migration refers to the number of people moving to/from a given location to/from other parts of the United States. International migration, meanwhile measures how many individuals move to/from a given place from/to places outside of the country.

As can be seen in the graph below, in both Cheshire and Sullivan Counties, international migration was the sole source of net population gain. Cheshire County, for example, lost 368 people to natural increase (or, more accurately, decrease) between 2010 and 2019, while also losing 1,196 people to domestic outmigration. Over the same time period, the county gained 565 people through international migration.

When interpreting this data, it’s important to consider who qualifies as an international migrant. U.S. Census Bureau data on “components of population change” includes not only foreign-born individuals in this category, but also native-born U.S. citizens who moved to/from locations outside the country.

Even with that caveat in mind, the relative strength of international migration to Southwest NH begs the question: is it a source of new residents and workers that we should be actively cultivating to address the issue of aging demographics? How might we as a region more proactively welcome households and individuals from other parts of the globe?