RALEIGH (Sept. 26, 2019) – Last year, 1.4 million North Carolinians lived in poverty and struggled to make ends meet, according to new data released today from the U.S. Census Bureau. 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.

Despite low rates of unemployment, far too many North Carolinians are being left out of the state’s economic recovery. In fact, 2018 marked the first time in the 10 years of economic recovery that the state’s poverty rate returned to pre-recession levels. 14 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 1 in 5 kids in North Carolina, lived in homes that struggled to afford the basics.

“Although we are seeing slow progress, far too many North Carolina families still struggle to pay for basic expenses like food and childcare,” said Brian Kennedy II, Senior Policy Analyst with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “It has taken our state a decade of economic growth to bring the poverty rate back to pre-recession levels. This is an indication of our inability to pursue and implement policies that ensure every single North Carolinian has the opportunity to share in our state’s prosperity. Without these policies, we will continue to see harmful levels of hardship and a growth in inequality.”

The new Census data shows that despite growth, North Carolina’s families are still dealing with high rates of poverty, stagnant incomes, and widespread income inequality:

  • North Carolina’s poverty rate is 1 percentage point higher than the U.S. poverty rate (13.1 percent), and has the 15th highest poverty rate in the nation.
  • The state poverty rate (14 percent) declined by 0.7 percentage points over the last year and is at its lowest since 2007, when the Great Recession hit.
  • The state’s median income ($53,855) is 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.
  • 6.2 percent of North Carolinians live in extreme poverty, which means they live below less than half of the poverty line — or about $12,550 a year for a family of four.

The data also show that poverty continues to hit some groups harder:

  • Communities of color face significant barriers in our state, including lack of access to quality education, housing segregation, and discrimination. The result is that they are more likely to struggle economically than whites. For example, in North Carolina, 21.1 percent of Black North Carolinians live below the official poverty line ($25,100 for a family of 4) compared with 9.8 percent of whites. Also, 24.8 percent of Latinx, 20.1 of American Indians, and 12.8 percent of Asian Americans live in poverty. This means that many aren’t sharing in our economic gains or able to fully contribute to the economic health of our community.
  • Women face higher poverty rates than men: 15.3 percent compared to 12.7 percent, respectively.

Kennedy adds, “Addressing poverty through proven policies that connect people to good jobs and reduce the harmful effects of hardship can boost our economy and improve the well-being of our state.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT Brian Kennedy II, BTC Senior Policy Analyst, at briank@ncjustice.org or 919-856-2153; or Mel Umbarger, BTC Senior Communications Specialist, at mel@ncjustice.org.