STATEMENT: Inadequacy of Unemployment Rate Exposed; New Family Prosperity Index a Superior Measurement

March 11, 2016

Traditional Jobs Data Paints Inaccurate and Incomplete Picture
Center’s Claims Validated: Lawmakers Should look to Broader FPI Index to Understand True Well-being of Ocean State Families
Providence, RI — Today’s front-page Providence Journal story validated the findings of new national research released earlier this month, which indicates that Rhode Island families are not faring as well as lawmakers may currently believe. Per the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, the Ocean State’s poor state rankings on the Family Prosperity Index (FPI) is a more accurate measure of the actual well-being of families. The FPI, which quantitatively demonstrates the link between social and economic factors, along with the Center’s own JOI index to be published in the coming month, are two new indexes the Center suggests that lawmakers should monitor.

“What if lawmakers were to realize that our policy culture of considering only the material needs of individuals, all along, has been harmful to the family unit,” inquired Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center, who was a handful of think tank leaders invited to participate in a February FPI workshop. “I believe this new research can be ground-breaking in that FPI and JOI broaden the scope of analyzing official government data to include both social and economic factors.”

FPISliderFor example, the often cited unemployment rate, a narrow snapshot of employment only, has declined notably in Rhode Island, giving lawmakers false occasion to trumpet success. Indeed, when considering broader economic, social, and demographic data … all combined into a single index over a longer period of time… Rhode Island actually fares very poorly, ranking 48th in the nation on the FPI index for 2015. In 2014 and 2012, the Ocean State ranked dead last.

Truth in Numbers? While on the one hand, the Ocean State improved to 32nd nationally in the 2015 unemployment rate, on the other hand, as part of its 48th overall FPI ranking, Rhode Island languished in the bottom-ten in five of the six FPI sub-categories:

  • 50th in Family Health
  • 46th in Family Structure
  • 46th in Demographics
  • 43rd in Economics
  • 42nd in Family Self-Sufficiency
  • 25th in Family Culture

“Do most Rhode Islanders feel as good about their family’s well-being as the unemployment rate and our politicians might suggest? I don’t think so. With FPI, we now have a measurement that can more fully measure family well-being,” continued Stenhouse. “Lawmakers can become heroes if they can design policies that actually address the real needs of real families.”

The Center maintains that it is indeed these grassroots, family-level shortcomings that are the root causes of the current economic malaise in the Ocean State, as opposed to lack of growth in elite, ‘advanced industries’ as suggested by the recent $1.3 million Brooking Institution report.

For additional charts & graphs, and ongoing analysis of the Family Prosperity Index, please visit .

While the FPI is an annually adjusted index, the Center also believes that monthly and quarterly analysis should also reflect broader measurements of government data.

In order to provide Rhode Islanders with that broader and more accurate picture of the opportunities that exist for families, the Center plans to publish later this month its own self-created Jobs & Opportunity Index, which will incorporate additional unemployment data and which will also measure the size and scope of the state’s private sector as compared with the size and scope of state government.

Media Contact:
Mike Stenhouse, CEO
401.429.6115 |

About the Center
The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise research and advocacy organization. The mission of the 501-C-3 nonprofit organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.