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The mail arrives Manchester Country Club in Bedford on Friday. Depending on the ZIP code, there's vast difference in median family income between Bedford and Manchester. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Bedford tops state's median household income list

MANCHESTER — More than a border separates Manchester and Bedford.

The city’s median household income of $54,664 last year represented only 44 percent of what Bedford households earned, according to estimates from the U.S. Census.

Bedford’s $123,766 household median income topped the list of 13 communities with at least 20,000 residents in New Hampshire.

Londonderry finished second with $111,625, followed by Merrimack at $103,696.

The Census data furnished a margin of error for each community.

Bedford carried a $20,023 margin of error in either direction, meaning there was a 90 percent confidence that the actual median household income would fall between $103,743 and $143,789, according to Phil Sletten, a policy analyst with the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute in Concord.

Manchester’s margin of error was $3,683 in either direction, a smaller number because the Census would have interviewed more Manchester residents since the city has a much larger population, said Sletten, who analyzed the government data.

The 2015 estimates listed Bedford’s median at $134,514 and Manchester’s at $54,596. Those numbers meant city households made 41 percent of what Bedford households did in 2015.

That median number “is the closest that they have to what they think the real mean or median is,” Sletten said.

Meanwhile, Belknap County — which includes Meredith and Laconia — saw the biggest median household income drop among the state’s 10 counties. That figure decreased by $13,270 to $56,295 in 2016.

High-end cars and homes are commonplace in Bedford like this scene near the high school on Friday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

The county’s child poverty rate jumped from 8.8 percent in 2015 to 24.9 percent in 2016, but a margin of error also exists.

“Belknap County made a statistically significant change, a large and significant change downward in income and upward in poverty,” Sletten said. “The Census doesn’t necessarily ask why or provide an answer as to why.”

“Statistically significant” means there is at least 90 percent confidence that the child poverty rate increased by some amount between 2015 and 2016, he said.

Sletten said the child poverty data for 2014 was 17.4 percent.

Dover economist Brian Gottlob said his calculations showed the margin for error of Belknap County children in poverty was plus or minus 12 percent for 2016.

“Again, not a good idea to draw conclusions about trends from data with that kind of error margin,” Gottlob said.

Meredith Town Manager Phillip Warren, Jr. said his town doesn’t compile either median household or child poverty data.

“Anecdotally, we have not seen a recent change either way in items that may suggest a correlation to those numbers such as total spending for general assistance, requests for abatement on taxes based on hardship, or extended payment plans on past due taxes due to financial hardship,” he said.

Donna Woodaman, Laconia’s finance director and welfare director, said her city doesn’t keep such records either.

“We’re making sure we’re assisting people based upon what they’re looking for and what they have for income and expenses,” Woodaman said.

A luxury SUV exits the Manchester Country Club in Bedford. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Rockingham County had the highest household income, $81,726 in 2016, a decrease of $6,234.

Coos County gained $7,684 in 2016, to $47,092, the lowest of any county. Strafford County increased by $9,732 to $71,295, the third highest county. Hillsborough County for 2016 reported a median household income of $76,254.

The county estimates also carried margins of error of between $2,107 and $6,952 in either direction.

The statewide median household income stood at $70,936 in 2016, ranking New Hampshire as the eighth-highest among the states, based on 3.5 million people surveyed.

A separate Census survey of 95,000 people gave New Hampshire a median household income of $76,260, the nation’s highest.

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