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Posts Tagged ‘demography’

New Hampshire demographer Peter Francese’s talk yesterday at Nauset Regional Middle School in Orleans crystallized problems and possibilities on the Outer Cape.  “Demography,” he declared, “is a fourth of what you need to know.”  Francese parsed bar graphs to convince educators to think about culture, the attitudes and values that have produced the numbers he studies and the region in which we live.  You can read about the meeting by clicking here. And you can see the statistics for yourself by reading the handout Francese presented here.

Francese discussed what he’s learned about the Outer Cape by crunching the Cape’s census data from 2007.  His findings are dramatic.  The Outer Cape’s population is shrinking except when it comes to older folks.  Spending for public schools is rising even though enrollment numbers are falling.   “Demography is not destiny,” Francese said.  “You can change it.”

People often claim their regions are “unique,” Francese said.  That’s generally not true, but in the case of the Outer Cape, for a variety of reasons, he said, it could not be more accurate.  I’ll add that it’s worth examining what makes the Outer Cape a distinct region as we think about what’s broke and what needs fixin’.

Which reminds me of a book I brought home from the library this week.  In 1985, ecologist Charles H. W. Foster published The Cape Cod National Seashore: A Landmark Alliance.  President John F. Kennedy signed legislation in 1961 creating the National Seashore.  Foster wanted to know, some twenty-odd years out, if the six towns abutting the National Seashore constituted a self-sustaining, cohesive “bioregion.”  Was the grouping of these towns merely an administrative sleight of hand, or was there something deeper that connected what we think of as The Outer Cape?

I’ll save his findings for another post, but I want to share a passage with you in conjunction with Peter Francese’s warnings about demography and culture:

In economic terms, there is no dominant industry.  Traditional agricultural and fishing activities have declined over the years, and manufacturing is limited to local crafts.  The largest economic activities are land development and service to seasonal visitors.  Of emerging significance is Cape Cod’s position as a retirement community, a growth industry of its own.  Delineated by the transportation ‘spine’ of Routes 6 and 28, the lower Cape has an economic identity, but its real economic center is the Seashore itself (viii).

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