NH grows more diverse, faces call for change

Dec. 19—O ver the past decade, no state saw a bigger percentage drop in its under-18 residents than New Hampshire.

These are many of the same people who employers in future years would have counted on to staff their restaurants and factories, research labs and offices.

Since 2010, the state added nearly 17,000 children of color, which partially offset the net loss of 47,200 White children.

"If not for the minority child population gain, New Hampshire would face even greater challenges in meeting the labor force demands of the future," said Ken Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. "Just as the parents of these minority children are already contributing to the current demand for workers in the state."

This What's Working special report points out disparities among racial groups, shares stories from people of color and offers solutions on making the state more inclusive.

Today, more than 2 of every 5 children in Manchester and Nashua hail from families of color, putting pressure on school districts and local leaders to confront real and perceived inequities that have marginalized many non-White students.

Test scores in Manchester reveal a clear distinction between White students and those of color.

Newspaper headlines show the debate continues to rage over what educators should teach about race and Black history.

"Any amount of warm feelings is not going to do these kids any better than a successful education," said Rep. Richard Littlefield, R-Laconia, a White legislator who backed a controversial bill that would have banned teaching, for instance, that the state of New Hampshire or the United States is racist or sexist.

Some education advocates say hiring more teachers who resemble the student enrollment will make students more comfortable and productive in the classroom, helping people of all backgrounds — refugee, immigrant or native born — to feel as though they belong.

But that change comes slowly. Of 130 Manchester teachers hired over five recent months, only five weren't White.

In 30 years, Manchester's youngest generation has shifted from 94% White in 1990 to 57% last year.

Yet, 19 out of every 20 Manchester teachers are White.

How much people of color feel comfortable here will help chart the state's future, according to Damond Ford, who works for GearUp Manchester, a federal program designed to increase the number of low-income students preparing for career options and for entering college.

"It's making sure New Hampshire is an open and free place for people to stay, especially those young people," said associate director Ford, who is Black. "If no one wants to live and stay here, that's going to be an issue."


What's Working, a series exploring solutions for New Hampshire's workforce needs, is sponsored by the New Hampshire Solutions Journalism Lab at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and is funded by Eversource, Fidelity Investments, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the New Hampshire College & University Council, Northeast Delta Dental and the New Hampshire Coalition for Business and Education.

Contact reporter Michael Cousineau at mcousineau@unionleader.com. To read stories in the series, visit unionleader.com/whatsworking.