The Budget and Tax Center released county-by-county Economic Snapshots yesterday, providing a lens through which to view how well communities in North Carolina are faring across key economic and social indicators. If you are wondering how many people are employed, living in poverty, or lack health insurance in your county, the snapshots are the go-to resource for quick data.
The snapshots include graduation rates and longevity data for the first time. A quick review of the snapshots reveals that counties with higher poverty rates are more likely to have more high-school dropouts and lower life expectancy at birth. Counties located in the eastern region—defined here as the Eastern, Northeastern, and Southeastern economic development areas—of the state have been hit particularly hard.
For instance, counties the eastern region of the state account for 7 of the 10 highest 2010 poverty rates, 14 of the 15 highest percentage increases in food stamp participation rates from Sept. 2007 to Sept. 2011, and 13 of the 20 lowest rates of rental affordability for a two bedroom housing-unit in 2010. Moreover, of the top 10 counties in North Carolina with the lowest life expectancy at birth, 9 counties are located throughout the eastern region of the state—and 4 of these counties are labeled persistently poor counties. Eastern counties also account for 10 of the 15 largest percentage increases in the unemployment rate between November 2010 and November 2011.
It goes without saying that people living in other regions of the state are also hurting, including Richmond County residents who are experiencing the second highest percentage of low-income population and Watauga County residents who are experiencing the largest income gap between the top 5 and bottom 20 percent of households.*
Some counties are doing better than others. This is clear in counties where educational attainment is higher than the state average despite experiencing a poverty rate higher than the state average, including Durham, Jackson, and Pitt counties to name a few. Other counties are faring better than the state average across several indicators. The data also shows the responsiveness of the Medicaid and food stamp programs for residents in need during and beyond the Great Recession.
Visit this cool interactive map to find out how well your county ranks among other counties throughout the state.
*County-level 2008-2010 estimates for the income gap indicator is available for only 85 of the 100 counties in North Carolina.