LACONIA — As the number of residents of the city living in poverty has risen in the past four years, the number of households and families with incomes of more than $100,000 has also increased, while the number with between $35,000 and $100,000 have decreased.
According to estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau, the portion of the population with incomes below the federal poverty level climbed from 12.1 percent in 2010 to 15.9 percent in 2014, or from 1,886 to 2,545 individuals.
At the same time, the bureau estimated in 2014 there were 1,145 families with annual incomes of less than $35,000, or 7.7 percent more than the 1,063 reported in 2010. The estimated 1,904 families earning between $35,000 and $100,000 in 2014 was 14.3 percent less than the 2,223 reported in 2010. Finally, the bureau estimated that the incomes of 1,131 families exceeded $100,000 in 2014, compared to 898 families of similar means in 2010, representing an increase of 25.9 percent.
The data for households presents a different but similar profile. The number of households with incomes below $35,000 shrank from 2,530 to 2,454 between 2010 and 2014, a decrease of 3 percent. But, the number of households with incomes between $35,000 and $100,000 also decreased, from 3,425 to 3,008, or by 12.2 percent while the number with incomes of more than $100,000 increased by 12.4 percent, from 1,223 to 1,375.
This data tracks a report by the Census Bureau that between 2007 and 2013 income inequality in New Hampshire increased at almost twice the national rate and faster than in any other state, with Carroll, Grafton and Belknap counties setting the pace.
The most comprehensive measure of income inequality is the so-called Gini Index, an international measure created by the Italian statistician Carrado Gini in 1912 and widely applied ever since. The index assigns zero to perfect equality while a value of one indicates that a single individual or family earns all the income and the rest earn nothing.
Using three-year averages, in New Hampshire the Gini Index rose from 0.414 in 2007 to 0.435 in 2013, a 5 percent increase. Carroll County posted the highest index of 0.468, followed by Grafton County at 0.46 and Belknap County at 0.44. However, during the same period the index rose 10 percent in Belknap County, twice the rate of the state as a whole and the greatest increase among the 10 counties.
The income distribution is reflected in changes in the local housing stock between 2000 and 2010. During the decade, the number of seasonal homes rose 55 percent, from 1,477 in 2000 to 2,293 in 2010, with the 816 additional seasonal units representing 62 percent of the growth in the total housing stock. With the increase, seasonal homes grew from 17 percent to 23 percent of all dwelling units in the city.
Between 2000 and 2010, the population of Laconia fell 2.8 percent, from 16,411 to 15,951, but the number of housing units climbed 15 percent, from 8,554 to 9,879, as 1,325 new units were built. At the same time, the number of occupied units rose by only 114, from 6,724 to 6,838, an increase of 1.6 percent, while the number of "vacant" units jumped by 1,211, from 1,830 to 3,041, an increase of 66 percent.