NC Budget and Tax Center

Proper planning needed: Within two years there will be more people ‘over 60’ in N.C. than ‘under 17’

The aging of our societies is one of the greatest success stories of the last one hundred years. However, with that success also come new long-term challenges and opportunities. Today, North Carolina is facing an extraordinary demographic makeover in the age of our population. The latest Prosperity Watch analysis from the NC Budget and Tax Center puts it like this:

“In less than two years, in 2019, our state will have a population with more people aged over 60 than under 17. Furthermore, between now and 2027, the proportion of the population aged 60 and over will only continue to grow – rising from 2.2 million to 2.8 million people, an increase of 28 percent.

Ten years ago, in 2007, a total of 31 counties in the state had more people aged over 60 than under 17. Since then, that number has more than doubled, and 78 counties now fit that description. However, what is most surprising is that this trend is not reversing anytime soon – by 2027, a total of 92 counties in North Carolina will have more people over 60 than under 17.”

That the state’s population is aging at this rapid pace requires policymakers and businesses across the state to plan and prepare while we still have the window of opportunity in front of us. If prudent planning in this area is accomplished we can minimize profound negative impacts on our economy and state budget in the coming years.

Policymakers must remember that government can have a constructive role in raising awareness about the implications of an aging society and engaging all sectors in preparing for the associated changes. As North Carolina continues to age here are three basic goals that should be accomplished in order for our state to thrive and be competitive in the coming years:

  • First, we must enable older adults to remain independent and age in the place of their choice with appropriate services and supports that enable a healthy lifestyle. Protecting the safety and rights of older and vulnerable adults, and preventing their abuse, neglect and exploitation is vital.
  • Second, we must ensure adequate investments today in the education of our children and their teachers in order to ensure the state’s workforce of tomorrow is prepared to lead in a complex and global economy.
  • Third, we must realize that migration into our state will be needed in order for us to maintain a strong workforce that will help sustain the state’s economy in the coming years.

Luis A. Toledo is a Public Policy Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

NC Budget and Tax Center

New data: Despite small gains, far too many people in poverty still left behind

New data today released from the US Census Bureau shows that 1.5 million North Carolinians lived in poverty in 2016. At 15.4 percent, the rate of poverty in N.C. has dropped by 1 percentage point from the previous year, yet still remains higher than pre-recession levels.

Income has followed similar trends to the poverty rate. The state’s medium income last year was $50,584, an increase from 2015, but still $1,130 less than the median income in 2007, after adjusting for inflation. This means that although our economy is recovering from the Great Recession, many NC families have yet to share in the state’s economic gains. Additionally, the data points to divides in our state, revealing that not everyone is impacted by poverty in equal ways. Serious barriers such as lack of access to quality education, housing segregation, and job and wage discrimination means some groups struggle economically more than others. Last year, 23.5 percent of African Americans, 27.3 percent of Latinx families, 25.5 percent of Native Americans, and 11.9 percent of Asian Americans experienced poverty compared to 10.8 percent of whites. Additionally, 21.7 percent of children experienced poverty and women experienced poverty at a rate 2.6 percentage points higher than men.

As grim as this data is, it tells an important story. Although we have seen positive gains in measures such as the unemployment rate, far too many North Carolinians are still being left behind in our state’s economic recovery. If we want to build an economy that works for everyone, lawmakers will have to ensure that we make adequate public investments in things such as income supports and higher education.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Approach to disaster relief funding is in need of drastic change

Last week, Congress passed a bill that included over $15 billion in disaster relief funding dedicated to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The bill, which included another provision that extends the debt-ceiling for three months, is in response to a cry from FEMA officials earlier this week who warned that the agency could run out of funds as soon as this weekend. The legislation, which awaits the president’s signature, includes $7.4 billion dedicated to Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts in Texas and Louisiana, another $7.4 billion for community block grants, and $450 million towards Small Business Administration (SBA) loans for damaged businesses.

Although 90 House and 17 Senate Republicans voted against the bill, largely on the grounds of extending the debt ceiling, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed that funding disaster recovery efforts in light of Harvey and ahead of Hurricane Irma is a priority.

This action signals a welcome departure from previous stances Congress has taken toward funding disaster recovery. A recent Slate article details the typical contradiction in lawmakers’ attitudes towards federal disaster relief. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina hit, then-Rep. Mike Pence expressed his hesitancy in providing disaster relief without spending cuts. In 2012, following Superstorm Sandy, lawmakers in both chambers threatened to withhold relief funding by tying the recovery bill to $17 billion worth of spending cuts.

The way our state and nation are bearing the financial and human costs of natural disasters is drastically changing. In just over the past 30 years, we have seen a significant increase in billion-dollar disasters. In North Carolina, in particular, these events will have disproportionate and catastrophic impacts of many of our poorest and rural communities. And yet without a commitment to investments over the long-term to prepare and plan for these costs, we will be leaving communities aside

After almost a year, Eastern NC is still not whole

Lawmakers have been inconsistent in funding unmet needs for those impacted by natural disasters and have neglected to have serious conversations about ensuring that infrastructure exists to minimize future devastation. This could not be more evident than here in North Carolina where the state was awarded only 1 percent of a $929 million aid request to support recovery and rebuilding efforts for Hurricane Matthew.

It is hopeful that in this emerging bipartisan commitment to helping communities recover, Eastern NC will finally receive some badly needed support. According to the NC Insider, nearly a year after Hurricane Matthew flooded much of the eastern part of the state, almost 3,000 families are still waiting to be bought out of their damaged and flood-prone homes. The state, however, only has enough funding to buy out one-third of the properties. Additionally, only a small number of businesses have received SBA loans and the state lacks funding needed to support low-income homeowners in need of repairs.  The estimated unmet need in the region according to state officials is $450 to $600 million.

We should applaud lawmakers for stepping up and choosing to support communities in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and Irma. But if we hope to build a stronger and more resilient North Carolina, we’ll need more than just disaster relief; we’ll need the investments and choices that ensure everyone, regardless of where they live or how much money they make, live in safe and thriving communities.

Brian Kennedy II is a Public Policy Fellow with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

Environment, NC Budget and Tax Center

Here’s how much climate change will cost each county in North Carolina

Climate change is not just an environmental issue, but an economic issue as well that impacts all 100 counties across North Carolina. As the country experiences an increasing number of billion-dollar disasters, the challenge for us all is to minimize the harm to families and communities and plan for the future. Since 1980, we have seen the number of billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in the U.S. increase by 400 percent. Profound weather shifts from rising sea levels and flooding to drought and forest fires require effective preparation, planning and response from our leaders.

The financial impact is increasingly relevant to county and state governments as federal officials, despite increasing disasters, consider scaling back federal assistance, and push states to take on greater responsibility for disaster preparation and recovery with their own resources. Here in North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew displaced thousands of families and caused $4.8 billion in damages across 50 counties we all saw that the federal withdrawal approach did not work and instead hurt our state. North Carolina policymakers have made just a $300 million commitment to Eastern NC to date despite documented unmet need of nearly $900 million.

A recent study published by Science that represents a major breakthrough for the field of climate economics finds climate change will aggravate economic inequality in the U.S. as there are “enormous disparities in how rising temperatures will affect American communities.” After simulating the costs of global warming in excruciating detail, modeling every day of weather in every U.S. county during the 21st century, the study finds the “South and lower Midwest will bear the brunt of the economic costs associated with climate change through the end of the century.” Coastal communities are projected to take a toll from rising seas and strengthening hurricanes while the South will be hurt by a decline in farming caused by rising temperatures, along with increasing energy demands to keep up with the heat.

For North Carolina this means many poor and rural parts of the state will be affected the most. Below is a sortable table that shows how much of its income each county in North Carolina stands to lose through the end of the century; linking climate projections with economic effects like mortality, labor productivity, energy demand and crop yields. Based on the analysis it is clear that in order to protect North Carolina’s economy and quality of life for people today and future generations, the state and all 100 counties must be cognizant of climate change and plan for its economic effects – especially in communities most in need.

Luis A. Toledo is a Public Policy Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

Climate Change Cost in Each County of North Carolina

CountyTotal Estimated Damages: % of GDP
(percentage of economy lost)
Agricultural Damage
(changes in average yields for
corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton)
Alamance6.7-32.8
Alexander4.7-31.4
Alleghany-2.60
Anson9.1-19.9
Ashe-1.20
Avery-1.50
Beaufort6-5.5
Bertie89.4
Bladen8.9-22.4
Brunswick6.3-22.1
Buncombe3.60
Burke5.9-35.4
Cabarrus5.8-33.7
Caldwell6.6-35
Camden3.7-12.8
Carteret5.7-22.4
Caswell8.2-20.4
Catawba5.4-21
Chatham4.6-27.6
Cherokee8.3-47.3
Chowan7.521.4
Clay1.9-13.7
Cleveland6.8-5.4
Columbus8.4-18.4
Craven5.7-1.7
Cumberland5.4-15.9
Currituck4.2-11.2
Dare3.90
Davidson6.2-31.1
Davie3.7-25.1
Duplin7.9-17.2
Durham4.6-15
Edgecombe8.91.8
Forsyth5-30.1
Franklin5-21.3
Gaston5.56.7
Gates7.1-2
Graham5.10
Granville5.2-16.3
Greene8.8-9.1
Guilford4.7-25.7
Halifax718.1
Harnett6.8-11.6
Haywood-0.734.2
Henderson2.8-38.6
Hertford9-3.7
Hoke7.6-7.5
Hyde7.8-6.2
Iredell3.2-21.3
Jackson-0.70
Johnston4.9-9.3
Jones7.310.4
Lee6.8-11.6
Lenoir8-5.7
Lincoln5.3-22.6
Macon2.40
Madison2.60
Martin822.6
McDowell-0.517.9
Mecklenburg3.3-18.7
Mitchell-0.20
Montgomery7.6-4.4
Moore6.1-18
Nash6.6-5.8
New Hanover5.9-39.8
Northampton7.816.2
Onslow3.6-11.8
Orange3-29.4
Pamlico6.9-10.5
Pasquotank6.2-14.3
Pender7.9-18.3
Perquimans6.72.9
Person5-15.5
Pitt5.8-7.5
Polk6.9-1.5
Randolph6.5-26
Richmond9.20.6
Robeson11-24.7
Rockingham6.5-15.2
Rowan7.7-27.9
Rutherford8.43.7
Sampson7.7-8.8
Scotland10-7.1
Stanly7.7-10.4
Stokes4.7-19.6
Surry3.5-22.7
Swain2.70
Transylvania8.4-66.9
Tyrrell7.9-17.3
Union4.5-26
Vance8-27.8
Wake3.1-24.5
Warren8.3-14
Washington8.2-12.5
Watauga-0.60
Wayne6.9-15.9
Wilkes4.9-50.1
Wilson7-9.3
Yadkin4.7-24.4
Yancey-8.10
NC Budget and Tax Center

Labor Day fact: SNAP helps 1 in 9 NC workers put food on the table

For many working North Carolinians, their wages alone are not enough to make ends meet. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) is a critical tool many working families rely on in order to put food on the table. According to new analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priority, SNAP helps 1 in 9 workers in North Carolina and 495,900 people in working households. SNAP and similar programs are becoming increasingly important as our state economy continues to loose middle-wage jobs. Between 2007 and 2016, North Carolina saw a loss of nearly 81,000 middle-wage occupations and an increase of over 90,000 low-paying jobs.

SNAP helps many workers who earn low wages, who have unpredictable schedules and paychecks, and who are in between jobs.

The report finds that:

  • Many workers and their families participate in SNAP while they are working or are looking for work. SNAP’s program and benefit structure supports work. While many participants work while participating in SNAP, many also apply for benefits to support them while they are between jobs.  Thus, many workers participate in SNAP for part of the year and stop participating when they are earning more.  Three-quarters of the working poor who were eligible for SNAP at some time during the year were eligible for only part of the year, an Agriculture Department study found.
  • Millions of Americans work in jobs with low pay. For example, a recent analysis found that up to 30 percent of Americans work in jobs with pay that would barely lift a family above the poverty line, even if they were working full-time, year-round.
  • Occupations that pay low wages are numerous and many are growing. Six of the 20 largest occupations in the country which together employed about 1 in 8 American workers, had median wages close to or below the poverty threshold for a family of three in 2016:  retail salespersons, cashiers, food preparation and serving workers, waiters and waitresses, stock clerks, and personal care aides). And eight of the ten jobs that are expected to add the most new jobs over the next decade have median wages below the national median, and many much lower.

To learn more about how SNAP supports workers, read the full report here.