By one measure, wage disparity in NH has grown more than almost any other state

Last modified: 11/22/2015 10:51:36 PM
Wage inequality has grown more in New Hampshire over the past decade than in almost any other state, according to a new study that says wages for workers at the upper end of the scale has risen, while pay at the lower end of the scale has fallen when inflation is taken into account.

The report is based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data about overall wages in 2005 and 2014.

Headlight Data, a business analysis firm, looked at wages over the decade and said that New Hampshire residents with the highest pay – those in the 75th percentile of all wages – saw wages grow about 4 percent over the decade after inflation, a measure of purchasing power. But those making the lowest amount, in the 25th percentile, saw their wages fall by 6 percent.

That difference of 10 percentage points is the third highest disparity of any state. Only Maryland and Rhode Island had a larger spread over that time period; New York state also had a difference of 10 percentage points.

The national average was a spread of 6.9 percentage points, in which high-wage earners saw their purchasing power go up by 3.1 percent and low-wage earners saw their purchasing power go down by 3.8 percent.

The report does not detail the causes. If might be, for example, that salaries of existing jobs changed at different rates, or it might be that salaries didn’t change much but some occupations disappeared from the state while others showed up, altering the balance.

“There are so many different reasons why that inequality is changing,” said Olivia Stewart, data analyst for Headlight Data, the analysis arm of business consulting firm Avalanche. “It can be mobility of your labor force or some sort of skills change.”

The question of income inequality has come to the forefront of political debate in the United States in recent years, fueled by perception of a growing divide between the haves and have-nots. There is little agreement on ways to lessen this divide, however.

Parsing the Headlight Data report another way, New Hampshire appears roughly average in terms of income disparity among states.

In 2014 data the median salary for New Hampshire workers in the 25th percentile, the lowest quarter of all salaries, was $24,320, which was 16th best among all states. And the median salary for people in the 75th percentile, the highest quarter of all salaries, was $56,800, which was 18th-best among all states.

There is also no obvious connection between this measure of inequality and overall economic patterns.

For example, Louisiana was one of the best states for inequality, because wages at the lower end and upper end grew at almost exactly the same rate. Yet those wages are much less than in New Hampshire: The median low-wage figure in Louisiana was $19,962, one of the lowest levels in the county and about one-fifth less than New Hampshire’s figure.

The best state by the inequality measure was North Dakota, where a boom in oil-field development has driven up salaries at all levels by 10 percent or more.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313,, or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

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