FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 14, 2017
Concord, NH – New data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau finds that New Hampshire’s poverty rate declined to 7.3 percent in 2016, down from 8.2 percent in 2015. New Hampshire continues to boast the lowest state poverty rate in the country, a distinction it has held for the last decade.
“New Hampshire’s low poverty rate masks the experiences of far too many Granite Staters who live above the federal poverty threshold and struggle to afford basic necessities,” said John Shea, executive director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute. “In particular, the state’s high cost of housing leaves many working families with little income left to put food on the table and acquire other essentials.”
The Census Bureau data finds an estimated 94,289 people in New Hampshire lived below the federal poverty line in 2016. The poverty threshold used by the Census Bureau for income in the twelve months preceding July 2016 is $12,391 for an individual under 65 years of age and $19,171 for a family of three with one child.
NHFPI analysis of the 2016 Census poverty data for New Hampshire finds that females were more likely than males to live in poverty, with estimated poverty rates of 8.1 percent and 6.5 percent, respectively. Those 65 years of age or older were less likely to live in poverty, with an estimated poverty rate of 4.6 percent, than those under 18 years old, who faced a poverty rate of 7.9 percent. Child poverty declined 2.8 percent from the 2015 level. NHFPI’s analysis is available here.
The official poverty threshold understates the degree of economic insecurity in New Hampshire and elsewhere. Due to a relatively high cost of living, New Hampshire families require a significantly higher level of income in order to afford housing, child care, health care, transportation, and food, among other basic necessities. NHFPI’s 2016 report, Taking the Measure of Need in the Granite State, outlines the shortcomings of the official poverty measures and examines alternate methods of assessing what it takes to afford a modest standard of living in various regions of the state.
New Hampshire’s low poverty rate does not provide an accurate measure of the numbers of workers struggling to get by. NHFPI analysis of the 2016 Census poverty data finds that approximately 117,000 households, or more than one in five households, collected less than $35,000 in income and benefits in 2016. In contrast, the state’s estimated median household income for 2016 was $70,936.
Despite a strong economy and low unemployment rate, much of the recent job growth in New Hampshire has occurred in sectors that typically offer low wages, such as the health care, social assistance, accommodation and food services industries, and wages for many low-income workers have not kept pace with inflation. NHFPI’s Snapshot of the State’s Labor Market outlines average weekly wages in these fields and additional information.
“As New Hampshire endeavors to sustain a strong workforce, policymakers should strive to ensure that all residents have access to the necessary education and training that will prepare them for new employment opportunities and help them achieve economic stability,” added NHFPI Executive Director John Shea. “In addition, policymakers should find ways to increase the availability of housing and child care services, which are affordable to all residents.”
The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to exploring, developing, and promoting public policies that foster economic opportunity and prosperity for all New Hampshire residents, with an emphasis on low- and moderate-income families and individuals.
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