As a steady movement of the Hispanic population from Southern New England to Southern New Hampshire continues, experts say communities here might benefit from a bilingual work force and a more diverse population.
As a virtually monochromatic state – only Maine, Vermont and West Virginia are less diverse – New Hampshire has been disadvantaged when it comes to the need for multilingual workers, or workers with a global perspective, some experts say.
But the Hispanic population has doubled in eight of New Hampshire’s 10 counties since 1990, according to U.S. Census figures.
In Salem, where Census figures show the Hispanic population has tripled since 1980, the school district has seen a marked increase of Spanish-speaking students.
In the late 1990s, 21 students were enrolled in English for Speakers of Other Languages in Salem schools, Superintendent Michael Delahanty said. Today, there are more than 200 such students.
It’s different at Wal-Mart, which has stores throughout the region. On Route 28 in Salem, many Wal-Mart cashiers slip effortlessly between English and Spanish, depending on which language the customer is most comfortable with.
That’s not an accident, Wal-Mart spokeswoman Ashley Huggins said.
Wal-Mart, she added, makes an effort to promote diversity, particularly in the ranks of management. The company employs 154,000 Hispanic employees nationwide. Figures for Wal-Mart employees in New Hampshire were not available.
Still, compared to Essex County, Mass., Southern New Hampshire is virtually monochromatic. Just over the border in Essex County, 14 percent of the population is Hispanic or Latino. In Salem, it’s estimated to be closer to 4 percent.
Things are slowly changing.
“Those populations in Lowell and Lawrence have been there for a long time,” Francese said. “The normal pattern of immigrant population is for the next generation to move.”
Duffy, of the state Office of Energy and Planning, agreed.
“The fact that they are not very far from Lawrence and Methuen (Mass.), sure, that makes sense,” he said.
Hispanic population growth
1980 – 132 of 18,875
1990 – 407 of 29,745
2000 – 643 of 34,112
1980 – 95 of 13,598
1990 – 185 of 19,798
2000 – 356 of 34,112
1980 – 169 of 24,124
1990 – 364 of 25,841
2000 – 552 of 28,219
Hispanic population growth and projections for New Hampshire
July 1995 – 13,000
July 2000 – 17,000
July 2005 – 20,000
July 2015 – 28,000
July 2025 – 34,000