N.H. child poverty rate increases, no longer lowest in U.S.
Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 00:10
After nearly a decade, New Hampshire has unexpectedly given up its distinction of having the lowest child poverty rate in the country.
That conclusion was reached by Beth Mattingly, director of research on vulnerable families at the Carsey Institute and research assistant professor of sociology at UNH, along with Jessica Carson, vulnerable families research scientist at the Carsey Institute, and Andrew Schaefer, a doctoral student in sociology and a research assistant at the Carsey Institute.
The group studied the estimates from the 2007, 2011 and 2012 American Community Survey, which is conducted annually by the U.S. Census Bureau.
When looking at the statistics, the group used the census definition of poverty, which varies depending on the size and composition of the family. For example, a family of four (two adults, two children) has a poverty line of $23,283.
The analysis showed an increase from 12 percent in 2011 to 15.6 in 2012, an overall 30 percent increase in New Hampshire’s Child Poverty Rate in that year alone.
The group also concluded that the state has experienced an increase of more than 75 percent since 2007. Though the rates are still comparatively lower than the national high poverty rate of 22.6 percent in 2012, the results are still significant.
“It was pretty obvious, once we ran the numbers,” Mattingly said. “We study poverty pretty regularly. It’s safe to say we no longer have the lowest child poverty rate in the nation.”
For Carson, both this increase as well as other state statistics defied her expectations.
“I was surprised at some of the states [that] saw increases in child poverty,” Carson said. “Seeing that we were one of the states with the highest increase was certainly shocking.”
Though not an expert in child poverty, Ken Johnson, a professor of sociology at UNH and senior demographer at the Carsey Institute, truly believes in the effectiveness of these studies, even though they only study a small portion of the population.
“Such data helps policymakers and planners develop programs to address the changing needs of the diverse people, place and institutions of the U.S.,” Johnson said.
Though the group is unable yet to say what caused this dramatic increase, they believe one major factor has been the Great Recession. Its major effects were felt after 2007.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve been tracking the effects of the Great Recession,” Carson said. “I think it’s kind of hard to say what the implications are. We’re still watching to see what the recovery rate is going to be post-recession.”
Having finished the preliminary research, the next step for researchers will be to figure out what has caused this increase.
“This is just a pure rate,” Mattingly said. “That’s what we’re looking for next: the factors that underlie this rate. We are now looking at what else changed demographically in the state [to see how that might have caused the increase].”
Even with the limited amount of information, bigger implications of the conclusions are still clear.
“I think it reflects that more children are going to be needing different services,” Mattingly said. “It might indicate that more people are struggling across the state, too. It’s only one indicator but it’s a big one.”
“We can only hope to help provide the policy makers with the information they need,” Carson said.