Poverty and Policy Matters

Poverty extends its reach across NC

A brief released last week by the NC Budget and Tax Center shows that the prolonged weak recovery is crippling the economy and creating economic distress for working families in NC. The state poverty rate ($22,314 for a family of four) climbed to 17.5 percent in 2010, a 22 percent increase since 2007 when the Great Recession began.

But there was more to the data released last week than state level numbers. The US Census Bureau also provided poverty levels and household income for areas with at least 65,000 people. There are 39 counties in NC that fit this criterion.** County-level poverty rates in NC ranged from 7.8 percent in Union County to 31.1 percent in Robeson County. 1 county had a poverty rate less than 10 percent, 16 counties had rates ranging from 10 percent to 17.5 percent (the state rate), and 22 counties had rates above 17.5 percent.

Poverty disproportionately impacted certain geographic communities in NC. The poverty rate in urban counties in the state was 19.1 percent, 3.7 percentage points higher than rural poverty rate of 15.4%. Yet, the more rural counties in the state had some of the highest poverty rates.

In line with national trends, deep poverty— which corresponds to an income of $11,157 for a family of four—rose in 27 of the 37 counties for which data is available from 2007 to 2010. 15 counties had a deep poverty rate above the state figure of 7.8 percent, and 10 counties suffered a higher change in the deep poverty rate compared to the state increase of 1.8 percentage points.

Median household income fell in 32 counties for which data is available between 2007 and 2010. The data show that the statewide median income fell by 12.3 percent during the same time period, lower than 9 of the hardest-hit counties. 27 of the 39 counties have a median household income below the state and national figures, $43,326 and $50,046 respectively. Robeson County and Wilkes County have the lowest median household incomes, both below $32,000. Wake County and Union County have the highest median household incomes, both above $61,000.

Robeson County has struggled the most over the year according to the data from 2010. This county had the highest poverty rate (31.1 percent) and deep poverty rate (18.7 percent), lowest median household income ($29,453), and third-highest July 2011 unemployment rate (13.4 percent) in the state.

With higher poverty and lower median household income, North Carolinians have diminished economic opportunities. Policies aimed at bolstering job creation and the safety-net would go a long way to ease the economic hardship in communities across NC. Equally important will be making sure that these resources are targeted to communities that need them the most.

** Two of these 39 counties, Carteret County and Rutherford County, met the population requirement for the first time in 2010. As a result, multiyear comparisons of poverty and income figures cannot be calculated for these two counties.

2 Comments


  1. Rob Schofield

    September 26, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Bad news, but thanks for shining some additional light on it, Tazra. Interesting that poverty continues to rise right along with corporate profits.

  2. Club Asteria

    September 29, 2011 at 10:51 am

    The blow to the economy seems to have far reaching effects. It is unfortunate so many people were put in these situations.

Check Also

Redesigning TANF to lift more families out of poverty

The 1996 welfare law that created Temporary Assistance ...

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

The controversy over “Silent Sam,” the Confederate monument on UNC’s Chapel Hill campus, has been ra [...]

North Carolina tries to mine its swine and deal with a poop problem that keeps piling up A blanket o [...]

This story is part of "Peak Pig," an examination of the hog industry co-published with Env [...]

Few issues in the North Carolina’s contentious policy wars have been more consistently front and cen [...]

Five years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a jaw-dropping civil rights lawsuit again [...]

Will Burr and Tillis really vote for this? For much of the 20th Century, one of the labels that Amer [...]

President Trump and Congressional Republicans aim to rebrand enormous tax cuts for the wealthiest ho [...]

20—number of years since a bipartisan coalition in Congress passed the Children’s Health Insurance P [...]

Spotlight on Journalism

We invite you to join a special celebration of investigative journalism! The evening will feature Mike Rezendes, a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe Spotlight Team known for their coverage of the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Tickets available NOW!

Spotlight On Journalism

This event will benefit NC Policy Watch, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center. Sponsorship opportunities available now!

Featured | Special Projects

NC Budget 2017
The maze of the NC Budget is complex. Follow the stories to follow the money.
Read more


NC Redistricting 2017
New map, new districts, new lawmakers. Here’s what you need to know about gerrymandering in NC.
Read more