NC Budget and Tax Center

The Washington Post began a series that will look at why America’s middle class is shrinking this week.  With it they have put together an important data tool for the public and policymakers to begin to delve into the dynamics affecting the country’s middle class.  The interactive map provides county level data over time of median household income, a measure what the household in the very middle of the distribution earns and a key indicator in assessing the well-being of household’s in a community that is often overlooked.

Analysis of median household income over time and places is not just important for individual household well-being but can also provide important insights into the health of the broader economy.  Equity in economic indicators is increasingly found to be associated with stronger and longer periods of growth.  These are positive outcomes to pursue in a recovery that has been modest and slow.

Nationally, the big take-away is that median household income peaked 15 years ago for more than 80 percent of counties. The data for North Carolina show a few interesting things:

  • Four counties, Hertford, Washington, Richmond and Scotland counties, saw their median household income peak in 1979
  • Rockingham, Rutherford and Cleveland counties saw their median household income peak in 1989
  • The majority of counties saw their median household income peak in 1999


NC Budget and Tax Center

North Carolina’s metro areas have been the location of the strongest job growth since the Great Recession.  But as the October 2014 county data released yesterday demonstrate, the improvements for metro areas have been insufficient to make up for the lost ground during the Great Recession.

Instead, 13 of the state’s 14 metro areBTC - Metro Area Recession Watch October 2014as still have a higher number of unemployed persons than they did before the Recession began.  Two metro areas–Hickory and Rocky Mount–have actually seen the number of employed persons continue persist below December 2007 levels.

And while improvements year over year have been made in job growth–the greatest growth occurring in Raleigh-Cary, Asheville and Wilmington–year over year the labor force has declined in eight of fourteen metro areas signalling an unhealthy level of employment opportunities.

There remains a long way to go for the economy to achieve a full and sustainable recovery if the variation in labor market experience persists to such a great degree even within metro areas of the state.

NC Budget and Tax Center

PolicyLink and the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity have put together a new data platform, the National Equity Atlas, which provides community leaders with information to measure, monitor and make the case for inclusive growth across the country. The creators note that before the creation of this Atlas it was difficult to secure data on the state of equity in regions and states. That is a problem.

Equity is a key component of sustainable growth. As the country becomes increasingly multi-racial in the midst of rising inequality and declining public investment in communities, barriers for low-income communities and communities of color in accessing economic opportunity hold back the broader economy.

The National Equity Atlas provides insights into the state of equity in North Carolina as well as major metropolitan areas in the state including Asheville, Greensboro-High Point, Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, Raleigh-Cary and Winston-Salem.

Here is a sample of the data points for North Carolina:

  • By 2040, 48.2 percent of North Carolina’s population will be people of color.
  • Over the 2000s, communities of color were driving population growth particularly the Latino and Asian communities.
  • By 2020, 42.3 percent of jobs in North Carolina will require at least a Associate’s degree or higher. Barriers to post-secondary education such as cost, transportation or scheduling around work have resulted in lower educational attainment levels for African-Americans, Native Americans and Latinos.
  • In 2012, North Carolina’s economy would have been $63 billion larger if there were no racial differences in income levels.

Check out the tool here.

NC Budget and Tax Center

In December 2007, just as the Great Recession started, 62 percent of North Carolina’s working-age population was employed. As of October 2014, employment had fallen to 56.5 percent as measured by the employment to population ratio.

Despite the important milestone Employment Levels in USof replacing all the jobs lost during the Great Recession, North Carolina still has not reached pre-recession employment levels.

North Carolina is not alone. No state has reached its 2007 employment levels as measured by the employment to population ratio. Four states still have employment levels more than 10 percent below their pre-recession levels while just two states—Texas and Minnesota—have the smallest difference in employment with ratios less than 2.5 percent below December 2007 levels.

NC Budget and Tax Center

The stories of children held back from pursuing educational opportunities, of families separated and weakened by deportations or their threat, of communities uncertain how to integrate and engage immigrants, provide the most compelling support for President Obama’s announcement of a new proposal to grant temporary, limited immigration status to certain immigrant families.

To complement these stories, however, data from the Migration Policy Institute details the potential numbers of individuals who this proposal could reach nationwide and in North Carolina. Approximately 117,000 parents in North Carolina would be eligible for the new deferred action program and another 38,000 young people would be eligible immediately for the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. In total, this policy has the potential to reach a little more than 40 percent of the state’s total population of immigrants who are undocumented. Read More