LACONIA — The New Hampshire Business Review recently reported that income inequality in New Hampshire is increasing at almost twice the national pace and faster than in any other state; and nowhere is the trend more pronounced than in the Lakes Region and Belknap County.
Citing data from the United States Census, the report notes that between 2007 and 2013 the gap between rich and poor in the United States has widened by 2.6 percent but in New Hampshire by more than 5 percent.
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.
Based on three-year averages from census data, In New Hampshire, the Gini Index rose from 0.414 in 2007 to 0.435 in 2013. Carroll County posted the highest index of 0.468, followed by Grafton County at 0.46 and Belknap County at 0.44. But, during the same period, the index rose 10 percent in Belknap County, twice the increase in the state as a whole and the greatest increase among the ten counties.
In the Lakes Region and Belknap County widening inequality has been accelerated by the other predominant trend of the time — the rapid aging of the population. Between 2000 and 2010, while the population of the county rose by 6.5-percent the age group younger than 18 fell nearly as fast, 6.3-percent, to diminish from almost a quarter to barely a fifth of the population. Meanwhile, the median age increased from 40.1 to 44.7.
The New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies projects that those over 65 will represent 37-percent of the Belknap County population by 2030, the second largest share of senior citizens among the 10 counties. As more and more affluent retirees have settled around the lakes, the disparities of income and wealth have widened.
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