FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 24, 2016
CONCORD, NH – New Hampshire’s official poverty rate of 9.2 percent was the lowest in the nation in 2014, but a new analysis underscores the failure of official poverty measures to present an accurate picture of the numbers of people struggling to make ends meet. The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute (NHFPI) today released a new research paper, Taking the Measure of Need in the Granite State, which examines the shortcomings of the traditional poverty measures and offers a more comprehensive method of assessing what it takes to get by in the Granite State.
“The official poverty rate stands at odds with the economic anxiety many Granite State families continue to experience,” said NHFPI Executive Director Jeff McLynch. “Traditional measures fail to account for New Hampshire’s high cost of living, which leaves even greater numbers of working families struggling to pay for necessities and puts financial stability far out of reach.”
In Taking the Measure of Need, NHFPI examines the level of income necessary to secure basic necessities using the Basic Family Budget concept developed by the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, DC-based think tank. The Basic Family Budget approach accounts for regional price differences and attempts to assess the true cost of achieving a modest standard of living. This method reflects costs for housing, food, transportation, healthcare, child care (if applicable), taxes, and other necessities, such as clothing, in a particular area for various family types.
The cost of living in Manchester illustrates the stark difference between the federal poverty measure and actual cost for basic needs. The official federal poverty threshold for a two adult, one child family is $19,055. Under the Basic Family Budget approach, the same family living in Manchester would need an income of $62,684 to afford a modest standard of living, a number that is more than three times the official poverty threshold. In fact, EPI’s Basic Family Budget assessment finds Manchester ranks among the most expensive places to live in the country.
NHFPI’s research also finds that a sizeable percentage of jobs fail to pay enough for many families to achieve a modest standard of living in the Granite State.
“New Hampshire’s low unemployment rate obscures the fact that many of the jobs that are available do not pay the level of wages required for families to make ends meet,” said Jeff McLynch. “This mismatch leaves many working families with difficult choices, deciding whether to put food on the table or pay the rent, one car repair away from financial disaster. They work tirelessly each day, but remain unable to meet their most immediate needs, much less achieve their longer-term financial goals – saving for retirement, sending their kids to college, or purchasing their own home.”
Preliminary NHFPI estimates suggest that a substantial share of jobs in the state do not pay enough for families to afford to make ends meet. Based on New Hampshire Office of Employment Security wage data, roughly 64 percent of occupations in New Hampshire likely pay enough for a single person to afford their Basic Family Budget, while only about 56 percent pay enough for a two-worker family of four to do so. More importantly, only 30 percent of occupations pay enough for a single parent with one child to afford a modest standard of living.
Learn more in NHFPI’s paper, Taking the Measure of Need in the Granite State.
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. Learn more at www.nhfpi.org.