Rural Stresses and Yankee Values: Another Reason to Admire the North Country
I love NH’s North Country. I didn’t grow up there but as a youth I festered in nearby state in a town along the Canadian border that also once had a thriving paper products industry and strong French Canadian accent. In my elementary school we recited the Pledge of Allegiance in both English and French.
What I love most and what distinguished NH’s North Country from others with similar geography, industry or demographics is the Yankee values of hard work, honesty, integrity, frugality, and a more intense connection to earth that so many of its residents demonstrate.
With some notable exceptions, but on balance, rural counties across the country have struggled more with demographic and economic issues than have more urban and suburban counties over the past several decades. Population and job growth trends and the demographic mix of Coos County have exposed that county’s residents to the economic equivalent of the “trials of Job” in recent decades. Thus I expected that data on delinquent debt by county would show Coos County residents to be far more likely to be behind in debt payments than most other counties in NH. In fact, as the chart below shows, at the peak of debt delinquencies in the country (Q4 2010), Coos County had the lowest percentage of debt that was 90 or more days delinquent (summing the percentage of auto loan, credit card, and mortgage debt that was 90+ days delinquent).
Whether it is the Yankee values of “living within your means,” or doing whatever it takes to honor obligations, it surely wasn’t a robust economy and strong income growth that enabled Coos County to have the lowest aggregate severe delinquency rate. I wasn’t looking for nor did I need another reason to admire and root for the North Country, but I found one anyway.