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Falling Behind in NC, NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Income Data 2013, Poverty and Policy Matters

New data released by the US Census highlight the pervasiveness of poverty nationally and in North Carolina. In 2013, one in six North Carolinians lived below the federal poverty rate – less than $24,000 a year for a family of four and  $12,000 a year for an individual. For communities of color, the poverty rate is far worse: 32.5 percent for Latinos, 28.9 percent for American Indians, and 28 percent for African Americans.

These daunting poverty rates highlight that far too many individuals and families across the state face economic hardship. The persistence of poverty has been accompanied by a rise in income inequality, which poses consequential implications for the overall economy and North Carolina’s state economy. The bulk of economic gains from the ongoing economic recovery have flowed to a small group of high-income earners. In the first three years of the economic recovery, the top 1 percent of income earners captured 95 percent of the income gains nationally. Here in North Carolina, income for the top 1 percent of income earners in the state grew by 6.2 percent from 2009 to 2011 while the bottom 99 percent saw their income decline by 2.9 percent. The latest US Census data show that this early post recovery trend is likely to hold. By 2013, the top 20 percent of households in North Carolina captured more than half of all income earned by all households in the state (see graphic below). Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Income Data 2013

The gains of economic growth from 2012 to 2013 passed over low- and moderate-income North Carolinians for yet another year, according to  data released by the US Census Bureau last month. Poverty and stagnant living standards in North Carolina have become the norm during the current economic recovery. High rates of hardship persist because of the state’s ongoing job shortage and the rapid acceleration of low-wage work that fails to provide a pathway to the middle class.

A glimmer of hope exists, however. The poverty rate would have been much worse in the absence of public policies that provide necessary support. US Census Bureau data show that work and income supports blunted the extent of poverty’s reach across the United States. Using an alternative poverty measure, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Unemployment Benefits, and Social Security helped keep poverty in check by lifting millions of American above the federal poverty line. That’s an annual income of $11,490 for an individual and $23,550 for a family of four in 2013.

SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, lifted 3.7 million people out of poverty and helped them meet basic needs, as illustrated in the graphic below. Read More

2015 Fiscal Year State Budget, Falling Behind in NC, NC Budget and Tax Center

This week the Budget & Tax Center released a new report on North Carolina’s 2015 fiscal year budget. While other states across the country are beginning to reverse the worst cuts made during the Great Recession, North Carolina continues to underfund crucial public investments in order to pay for tax cuts that took effect this year. Lawmakers failed to provide a high-quality education for all children, protect natural resources, support community-based economic development, or provide adequate health and human services to North Carolina residents.

Under the final budget, state investments are 6.6 percent below pre-recession levels five years into the official economic recovery. The new budget for the 2015 fiscal year is the 7th budget enacted since the Great Recession hit, and North Carolina has yet to bounce back to its pre-recession investment level. This is in contrast to spending during previous economic recoveries – spending did not dip after the 1981 and 2001 recoveries and state lawmakers restored investments to the levels that were in place when the 1990 recession hit within three years. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Income Data 2013

North Carolina is enduring a painfully slow economic recovery. There are too few jobs open for all of the people looking for work, and the majority of the new jobs available pay wages so low that families can’t make ends meet. The ongoing economic hardship is evidenced in new data released last week by the Census Bureau. Statewide, the poverty rate held steady at 17.9 percent in 2013, with more than 1.7 million North Carolinians living on incomes below the federal poverty level. That’s about $24,000 annually for a family of four—certainly not enough to pay all the bills, much less get ahead.

However, just looking at statewide averages can mask the concentrations of hardship in particular geographic communities. A large and growing body of research shows that where one lives can determine if one has access to the educational and employment networks that can pave a pathway to the middle class. Because place is deeply connected to the opportunity structure, it important to analyze county-level (as well as neighborhood-level) variances in poverty.

Of the 40 counties in North Carolina for which 2013 data is available, 15 are urban and 25 are rural (based on population size).* Nine of the ten counties with the highest poverty rates were rural counties, which continue to face job loss and struggle with the consequences of the exodus of manufacturing jobs. The highest county-level poverty rate was in Robeson County, where nearly 1 in 3 residents lived in poverty. In fact, Robeson County consistently ranks as the poorest county in the state and as one of the poorest in the nation. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Income Data 2013

Yesterday, the US Census Bureau reported that in 2013 more than 1.7 million North Carolinians lived in poverty, meaning they found it difficult to afford the basics, such as decent housing, nutritious food, and reliable child care. That’s more people than the populations of Asheville, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Wilmington combined. While poverty remains high across all racial groups in North Carolina and throughout the nation compared to pre-recession levels, communities of color continue to face the highest levels of economic hardship.

The federal poverty level is less than $24,000 a year for a family of four. It is less than half of the income required to be economically secure.

The number of non-Hispanic whites living in poverty is greater than any other group in North Carolina. At the same time, some communities of color are much more likely to live on the brink, earning an income that puts them below the federal poverty line. In 2013, 32.5 percent of Latinos, 28.9 percent of American Indians, and 28 percent of African Americans lived in poverty compared to 14.4 percent for Asians and 12.3 percent of non-Hispanic whites (see chart below). Poverty has grown for all groups since the recession, with Hispanics and African Americans experiencing the biggest jumps in economic hardship. Read More