PORTLAND, Maine — Faced with living free or dying, New Hampshire has apparently overtaken Maine as the most populous state in northern New England after more than two centuries as the Pine Tree State’s little sister.

The latest census figures estimated New Hampshire had about 1,280 more people than Maine, the first time in 215 years that New Hampshire topped the Pine Tree State, according to historical census figures.

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Concord Monitor writer David Brooks noted the milestone in a blog post earlier this week.

Maine’s population trend has for years been negative, with more deaths than births in recent years. A net gain of international immigrants has been the primary bulwark against that decline, as a net migration loss to other states has cut into Maine’s population total, too.

Maine was one of seven states with an estimated drop in population from 2014 to 2015.

The latest estimates putting New Hampshire’s population ahead of Maine’s come with a margin of error, meaning Maine could still have the lead. But even if later revisions show Maine remaining the most populous state in northern New England, trends indicate it won’t hold the title for long.

Since 1900, New Hampshire has recorded more steady increases in population than Maine (with the exceptions of 1910, 1920 and 1940).

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Maine began to fall behind New Hampshire’s population after the 1950s. From 1890 to 1950, both states grew at similar rates. But by 2015, Maine had grown just 45 percent from 1890 while New Hampshire logged a 150 percent increase since the end of the 19th century.

Measured against the rest of the country, New Hampshire and Maine’s growth since then has been dwarfed by southern and western states.

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Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.