Fact of the Week: Three-Quarters of states still have higher levels of need than before the Great Recession


June 6, 2018

Residents in 37 states and the District of Columbia were still experiencing higher levels of need in 2017 than they were in 2007, before the Great Recession. This is one of the findings in the latest edition of the Human Needs Index (HNI), a multidimensional measure of poverty conducted by The Salvation Army and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.  In 16 states, need as measured by the HNI more than doubled from 2007 to 2017. Only 13 states had lower levels of need in 2017 than in 2007.

According to a press release, the national HNI began trending upward in 2007 at the start of the Great Recession and hit a peak in 2012. Since then, it has generally been declining gradually, but even as the economy recovers, many are still being left behind.

“The Human Needs Index shows overall improvement, but it will take more time for many people in specific regions of the country who are in need to fully recover from the Great Recession,” said Una Osili, Ph.D, associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “The data suggests that in many states, people are continuing to experience a need for various types of assistance.”

The HNI measures poverty by looking at need substantiated on consumption rather than income (which the U.S. Census Bureau uses to define poverty), taking into account assistance provided with meals, groceries, mortgage and rent payment, clothing, furniture, medical bills and prescriptions, and energy bills. A HNI score of 0 indicates a minimum level of need, and the higher the HNI value, the greater the need. Scores track changes in need-based demand on a monthly basis. Nevada had the highest HNI for 2017, with a value of 4.76. See the inactive chart below to see how your state’s HNI has changed over time and how it compares to the national average. To see the number of services provided in your state over time in an interactive map, and for more tools and information, see the HNI site.

For more information on ways CHN and our coalition members are fighting to protect basic needs programs that provide assistance to the millions of Americans still struggling, see our Protecting Basic Needs page. For more ways you can get involved, see our Take Action page.

Fact of the Week
Poverty and Income
Protecting basic needs
Social Services