Commentary, NC Budget and Tax Center

New report: NC must do much more to combat poverty

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Last year, 1.4 million North Carolinians lived in poverty and struggled to make ends meet, according to data presented in a new report by the Budget & Tax Center.

The report, Fight Poverty, Promote Prosperity for North Carolina, by Alexandra Sirota, Director of the N.C. Budget an Tax Center, summarizes the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau and demonstrates the multiple ways in which hardship plays out for people and communities across the state, holding us all back from fully realizing our potential to deliver a high quality of life to everyone.

The report details the ways in which people and communities across the state still face barriers to getting ahead such as lack of access to good-paying jobs, unaffordable childcare, little access to public transportation to get to work, and inadequate education and job training resources. The data on who and which communities experience poverty reflect the legacy of historic policies, practices, and ways in which present day decisions by policymakers reinforce disparate outcomes.

Despite low rates of unemployment, far too many North Carolinians are being left out of the state’s economic recovery.

Among the report findings:

  • North Carolina’s poverty rate is 1 percentage point higher than the U.S. rate (13.1 percent), and it has the 15th highest poverty rate in the nation.
  • 2018 marked the first time in the 10 years of economic recovery that the state’s poverty rate returned to pre-recession levels.
  • Fourteen percent of North Carolinians lived in poverty in 2018, living on less than $25,100 a year for a family of four. Poverty often strikes harder in households with children. In 2018, 19.7 percent, or nearly one in 5 kids in North Carolina, lived in homes that struggled to afford the basics.
  • The state poverty rate (14 percent) declined by 0.7 percentage points over the past year and is at its lowest since 2007, when the Great Recession hit.
  • The state’s median income ($53,855) in 2018 was statistically unchanged from both 2017 and 2007, meaning there has been no progress in raising middle-class living standards for the average North Carolinian since the beginning of the Great Recession.

Click here to explore the full report in PDF format.

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