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New Hampshire’s Numbers: 2016 Census Bureau County Estimates Show Disparities Within the State

October 19, 2017 State Economy

For more information about interpreting the significance of this data release, read our October 26 post:
Interpreting the Significance of the October County Census Data Release


Following the primary data release in September 2017, the United States Census Bureau American Community Survey data released in October 2017 provides estimates, based on data collected in surveys conducted throughout 2016, of New Hampshire’s population characteristics for all geographic subdivisions with more than 20,000 residents. These data permit comparisons between point estimates for median household income and poverty rates in each of the state’s ten counties and 13 largest municipalities. As sample sizes are small for certain geographies, note that the margins of error may be large around some of these point estimates.[1] 

Median Household Income

On a county level, Granite Staters see widely different median household incomes from statewide median of $70,936, based on data collected in 2016, but also from each other. The state’s two most populous counties, Hillsborough and Rockingham, help boost the statewide median income, but the least populous county, Coos, has a substantially lower estimate of $47,092.  The state’s other predominantly rural counties (Sullivan, Grafton, Carroll, and Belknap) have estimated median household incomes lower than the cluster of more urban counties (Strafford, Merrimack, Hillsborough, and Rockingham).

Line graph of county income estimates 2014-2016

Rockingham County, which is the state’s most southeastern county and includes both New Hampshire’s seacoast and the communities with the most direct access to Boston, had the highest median household income at $81,726. If Rockingham County were its own state, it would rank first in median household income, above Maryland, while Coos County would rank 43rd, between Tennessee and New Mexico. Compared to 2015, Coos and Strafford counties saw statistically significant increases in their median household incomes, while Rockingham and Belknap counties experienced statistically significant decreases of $6,234 and $13,270, respectively.

Chart of Median Household Income by County in Dollars

The U.S. Census Bureau also provided details for municipalities with more than 20,000 residents. Although the margins of error can be large due to small sample sizes in this 2016 survey collection, substantial differences in point estimates suggest notable disparities in incomes across municipal borders within counties as well as between counties. For example, Bedford topped the median household income list with $123,766, while neighboring Manchester, also in Hillsborough County, had a figure of $54,664, 44 percent of Bedford’s median household income. Keene, the only municipality with over 20,000 residents outside of the southeastern quadrant of the state, had the lowest median household income of the 13 largest municipalities, with $51,278.

Chart of Median Household Income by Municipality

Poverty Rates

The percentage of people living in poverty also varies widely by county, and there are substantial differences in the point estimates between age groups as well. The four northernmost counties in the state all have estimated poverty rates of 11 percent or higher, well above the state’s average of 7.3 percent, while the child poverty rate is above 20 percent in Belknap, Carroll, and Coos counties. Comparatively, Rockingham County’s overall poverty rate is 3.6 percent. The city of Manchester had a poverty rate of 14.1 percent, and Nashua’s was 9.1 percent. Relative to the 2015 estimates, Coos and Strafford counties saw statistically significant decreases in their poverty rates, while Belknap had a statistically significant increase. Belknap County was the only county to have a statistically significant increase in child poverty, while it dropped in four counties.

Chart of Estimated Poverty Rate by County

Graph of Estimated Poverty Rate by County and Age Group


[1] For more information on the U.S. Census Bureau September 2017 data release, see NHFPI’s September 28 New Hampshire’s Numbers Fact Sheet and NHFPI’s Common Cents posts on poverty and income and the different measures of median household income. The Census Bureau provides resources for using margins of error in the American Community Survey, including an explainer presentation from April 2017.


FACT SHEET:  New Hampshire’s Numbers: 2016 Census Bureau County Estimates Show Disparities Within the State (PDF)


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The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March was the largest piece of legislation aimed at providing relief and support in response to the COVID-19 crisis. A key type of aid being distributed is direct cash payments, officially called Economic Impact Payments (EIPs). These payments are sent by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to eligible individuals and families who earned incomes within specified thresholds, based on their last tax filing. These payments are designed to directly support those who may be facing additional financial burdens as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, while also potentially stimulating local economies. The program makes several groups of individuals ineligible for this aid, and may result in thousands of Granite Staters with very low incomes not receiving their EIP without additional outreach and support.

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