States of the Presidential Race: New Hampshire

January 22, 2016

The New Hampshire primary, for both the Republican and Democratic parties, is on February 9.  New Hampshire’s voting-age population is overwhelmingly white and relatively old, and its economy is strong even for New England. Here’s what you need to know about the state hosting the first primary.

Demographics

New Hampshire’s voting-age population (just over 1 million in 2014) is overwhelmingly non-Hispanic white (92.6 percent). It’s also relatively old and getting older relative to the nation.

In 2014, 19.9 percent of New Hampshire’s voting-age residents were older than age 64, compared with 18.9 percent of the US voting-age population. By 2030, 28.8 percent of New Hampshire’s voting-age population will be age 65 or older; nationally, this group will fall to 18.3 percent.

NH demographics

Learn more about New Hampshire’s population with Urban’s Mapping America’s Futures.

Economy

Unemployment rate: 3.1% (December 2015)*

Peak unemployment rate during the Great Recession: 6.6% (June-July 2009)

Average weekly earnings, private employment: $850 (December 2015)*

House prices compared with one year ago: +5.4% (third quarter 2015)

Among the Census’s nine geographic divisions, New England’s 4.7 percent December unemployment rate* was second lowest (the western half of the Midwest had the lowest rate). Still, New Hampshire’s 3.1 percent unemployment rate* stands out even in this relatively well-performing region. Its December rate was the lowest among New England states (Vermont’s 3.6 percent rate* was second lowest) and the fourth-lowest rate in the United States. Only North Dakota (2.7 percent), Nebraska (2.9 percent), and South Dakota (2.9 percent)* had lower unemployment rates that month. 

updated NH unemployment data

Learn more about New Hampshire’s economy with Urban’s State Economic Monitor.

Health care and the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Unlike most states, New Hampshire has just one rating area, which means premiums are the same for all New Hampshirites, regardless of where they live. Despite relatively low 2015 silver plan premiums (compared with other states), premiums only increased slightly in 2016.

In 2015, New Hampshire had one of the highest proportions in the country of residents selecting plans in the ACA marketplace without using tax credits, relative to Urban Institute projections. This may have been the result of the state's well-coordinated, community-based approach to outreach and enrollment assistance, particularly its reliance on existing trusted relationships within all communities, not just those in low-income areas.

NH ACA data

Learn more about New Hampshire and the ACA from Urban’s Health Policy Center.

Higher education

Only 46 percent of public college students in New Hampshire are state residents— the third-lowest share among the states and well below the national average (80 percent). And students that stay in the state to attend public schools face hefty tuition costs. New Hampshire’s public four-year colleges have the highest tuition in the country ($15,160, compared with $9,410 nationally), and its two-year colleges have the second-highest tuition ($6,512, compared with $3,435 nationally).

NH higher education

Learn more about New Hampshire and higher education with Urban’s Financing Public Higher Education dashboard.

*These numbers were updated on January 27, 2016 to reflect the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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States of the Presidential Race: Iowa

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January 13, 2016

The Iowa caucus, for both the Republican and Democratic parties, is on February 1. Iowa’s population is relatively small and mostly white, and its economy is performing better than most states. Here’s what you need to know about the state hosting the first caucus. 

Demographics

Iowa’s voting-age population (just under 2.4 million in 2014) is overwhelmingly non-Hispanic white (89.4 percent). However, the non-white voting-age population nearly doubled from 2000 to 2014, from 5.9 percent to 10.6 percent, and it likely will double again to 18.1 percent by 2030. Still, Iowa’s large non-Hispanic white majority deviates from the national profile: non-Hispanic whites constituted 65.1 percent of the US voting age population in 2014 and will make up 57.7 percent by 2030.

Iowa demographics

Learn more about Iowa’s population with Urban’s Mapping America’s Futures.

Economy

Unemployment rate: 3.4% (December 2015)*

Peak unemployment rate during the Great Recession: 6.6% (May-August 2009)

Average weekly earnings, private employment: $796 (December 2015)*

House prices compared with one year ago: +3.3% (third quarter 2015)

Iowa’s 3.4 percent December unemployment rate* was the sixth lowest among the 50 states and well below the national rate (5.0 percent). Iowa’s relatively strong job situation is not a new phenomenon. The state weathered the Great Recession far better than most. Its unemployment peaked at only 6.6 percent—by comparison, the national peak was 10.0 percent—and the last time Iowa’s unemployment rate was above the national average was January 1986.

updated Iowa employment data

Learn more about Iowa’s economy with Urban’s State Economic Monitor.

Health care and the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Iowan enrollment in the ACA marketplace was relatively low in 2015, reflecting (among other issues) the lack of insurance options, with only one or two insurers per rating area. Roughly 34,000 Iowans used tax credits to enroll in marketplace plans, though an estimated 173,000 residents were eligible. Relative to the national average, Iowa also had one of the largest increases in lowest-cost silver plan premiums—considered a good standard of plan affordability—on the marketplace this year, seemingly due to adjustments for low premiums in 2015.

Iowa ACA

Learn more about Iowa and the ACA from Urban’s Health Policy Center.

Higher education

Tuition at Iowa’s public four-year colleges increased only 1 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars over the past five years, while the price increased an average of 13 percent across the nation. However, public two-year college tuition in Iowa rose 11 percent, compared with 14 percent nationally. And Iowa’s community colleges had above-average cost and enrollment. Thus, proposals for free community college would have a significant impact in Iowa.

Iowa community college

Learn more about Iowa and higher education with Urban’s Financing Public Higher Education dashboard.

*These numbers were updated on January 27, 2016 to reflect the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Always zoom out to examine a governor’s economic record

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December 11, 2015

The Urban Institute’s new interactive graphics of historical state economic data provide an important tool for analyzing the records of governors running for president: context. A state’s economy depends on a lot more than what the governor does.

As a result, you should always keep (at least) three things in mind when you assess a governor’s economic record:

  1. The national economy
  2. The state’s long-term trends
  3. The governor’s limited ability to affect a state’s economy relative to other economic factors

State unemployment rates offer a good example of why you should always zoom out when considering economic data.

Lesson #1: The New Jersey and Ohio unemployment rates have dropped considerably since Governor Chris Christie and Governor John Kasich took office (in 2010 and 2011, respectively). But so has the national unemployment rate. Both governors’ terms began after the Great Recession, when unemployment was high, and both states followed the nation as the economy improved and unemployment dropped. In fact, the unemployment rate in both states has roughly mirrored the national rate for decades.

Christie Kasich unemployment record

Lesson #2: Maryland’s unemployment rate was below the national rate throughout former governor Martin O’Malley’s time in office—as much as 2.6 percentage points lower (in October 2009). But that was nothing new: the state’s rate was consistently under the national rate well before O’Malley took office.

O'Malley unemployment record

Lesson #3: Former governor Jeb Bush presided over the lowest unemployment rate (3.1 percent) in Florida’s history during March and April 2006. And for most of his second term, Florida’s unemployment rate was at least 1 percentage point below the national rate. But a year after Bush left office, Florida’s rate equaled the national rate, and a year after that it was 1 percentage point above it.

The big changes in unemployment were consequences of the national housing boom and bust, which affected Florida more than most states. In fact, Florida’s dip below and spike above the national unemployment rate closely mirrors its house price rise and crash during the same period.

Bush unemployment record

The takeaway from these three lessons is not that voters should ignore the economic records of governors. But voters should be leery of overhyped claims of success (or failure). Better yet, voters should look into something governors actually can control: policy decisions.

This is one in a series of posts from the Urban Institute’s State and Local Finance Initiative examining the records of current and former governors running for president.

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