NH ranks high in financial security
When it comes to achieving financial security, New Hampshire residents rank third in the nation, even though 21 percent of the state’s households are living from paycheck to paycheck, with no savings or liquid assets.
That 21 percent living in “liquid asset poverty” may sound high, but the national average is 44 percent, according to the 2014 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, produced by the Corporation for Enterprise Development.
The CFED, which advocates for low- to middle-income Americans, ranked New Hampshire highly in every outcome in its annual analysis of U.S. households, including a number-one ranking for percentage of residents with a bank account and number one for employer-provided insurance coverage.
Only Vermont and North Dakota topped New Hampshire in the overall ratings for economic security, with Wyoming and Alaska rounding out the top five. Massachusetts was ranked 11th and Maine 13th.
The U.S. Census Bureau is the largest source of data for the scorecard, along with information from other federal agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The CFED, whose stated mission is “expanding economic opportunity,” also purchases private data from groups like the Mortgage Bankers Association and credit reporting agencies like TransUnion.
The annual scorecard evaluates how residents are faring across 66 outcome measures in five different issue areas — financial assets and income; businesses and jobs; housing and home ownership; and health care and education.
New Hampshire ranked sixth in the category of financial assets and income, largely because of the state’s low poverty rate of 9 percent (second lowest in the country).
The state ranked in the top five in business and jobs, health care, and education, with its comparatively low unemployment rate (5.3 percent), a high number of adults with a high school degree (91.8 percent) and a four-year degree (34.6 percent).
New Hampshire was in the bottom five states when it comes to early childhood education (46th) and average college graduate debt (48th).
A key measure
Part of the CFED mission is to encourage savings for emergencies and retirement, so the “liquid asset poverty index” is a key measure in the annual report.
“Last year was the first time we used this outcome measure,” said CFED President Andrea Levere. “Your economic security is not just about income. It’s also about savings because savings are the household safety net.”
The index measures whether a household could survive for three months at the federal poverty level if its main source of income disappeared due to job loss or illness, not accounting for any government or charitable assistance.
The CFED analysis in 2013 determined that 31 percent of New Hampshire households meet the criteria for liquid asset poverty — a number that improved to 21 percent this year, while the national average remained unchanged at 44 percent.
While New Hampshire fared well on the outcomes in the report, it does not have in place many of the policies favored by the CFED, such as expanded Medicaid, a higher minimum wage, state-funded Head Start programs and state-imposed limits on hospital charges and collection practices.
The state was ranked 42nd from a policy perspective.
“In New Hampshire you have a lot of strengths compared to other states that contribute to the positive outcomes,” Levere said. “You have a much more homogenous population than other states; you’re a much smaller state; and you have low unemployment because of significant economic growth that’s really being driven by the states around you.”
Levere said the organization sees the same disconnect between outcomes and CFED-favored policies in the top-ranked western states.
“We have the same experience in some of the states out West with a lot of natural resources that have brought a lot of wealth to the state that did not require government support,” she said.
The full report can be read at cfed.org.