People who moved to New Hampshire in the past decade most often cited family and employment reasons, while longer-term residents pointed to family and the natural environment as factors for staying here.

Multiple forces influenced people who settled here within the past decade, according to a new University of New Hampshire research paper.

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“Business leaders should recognize that it is not just employment opportunities that attract workers to the state,” co-author Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey School of Public Policy, said in an email Tuesday.

“It is a package of things including the job, the quality of life and the natural environment,” Johnson said. “In recruiting workers, it would be wise to incorporate some of these other important factors such as quality of life and the natural environment into their recruiting efforts.”

The state’s recent growth is attributed to people moving from other states as New Hampshire registered more deaths than births among residents during 2017-19.

The natural environment — including the state’s lakes, mountains and coast — and quality of life were more important for residents who have lived here for more than 10 years.

As for family considerations, it’s “certainly living near family — whether it is a young couple who wanted to be near their families once they have children (or plan to have them), or older adults who want to be near their adult children and grandchildren,” Johnson said.

Employment was most frequently cited for people here for less than 10 years who have a college education or higher. Less than a quarter of residents here more than a decade cited employment as a top motivation to remain.

Realtor Rachel Eames, past president of the New Hampshire Association of Realtors, said she sees many families moving to New Hampshire and more younger couples planning to start families.

“Raise a family, I hear that all the time, and that’s quality of life,” said Eames, who cited a low crime rate, no sales or income tax as well as mountains, lakes and the coast.

Will Stewart said the UNH research was consistent with work commissioned for Stay Work Play NH, which works to retain and attract younger workers to New Hampshire.

“Indeed, our research found the state’s environment and outdoor recreational opportunities to be a leading reason young people stay here,” said Stewart, executive director at the nonprofit. “Likewise, we found that a lack of quality jobs and career opportunities to be the number one (reason) young people say they would leave New Hampshire.”

The coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout have triggered record unemployment throughout the country this year, meaning fewer people moving to New Hampshire.

“I suspect that migration will slow in the short run in light of the pandemic and its economic aftermath, just as migration slowed to New Hampshire during the era of the Great Recession,” Johnson said.

“When things get difficult many people choose to remain in place rather than make a major move,” Johnson said. “The fact that many current residents value family, the natural environment and the quality of life in New Hampshire — things that won’t be impacted as much by the pandemic and its economic aftermath — may well mean that more New Hampshire people stay put.”

Among residents who arrived within the past 10 years, 61% were younger than age 50, compared to 40% of residents who had called New Hampshire home for more than a decade.

More than a third of established residents and a fifth of recent arrivals cited quality of life as another important reason to remain.

“Many established residents mention that living in New Hampshire has made them appreciate its safety, its small-town feel, and its slower pace of life,” said the paper, co-written by Kristine Bundschuh, a Ph.D. sociology student at UNH.

The research is based on a survey of 2,063 people from summer 2018 to fall 2019.

Policymakers might be able to influence some factors that encourage residents to stay in the state and attract new people.

“However, our findings suggest that there is no single solution to developing policy that draws and retains New Hampshire residents,” the research paper said. “In fact, policies that support some factors might directly undermine others, such as natural conservation rules that impact the ability of businesses to expand or the ability of early-career young adults to find affordable housing.”

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, 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.

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