RALEIGH (December 18, 2019) – 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, a project of the NC Justice Center.

The report, Fight Poverty, Promote Prosperity for North Carolina, 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.

“As the holiday season begins and people reflect on gift giving and hardship, no gift would be better than for North Carolina leaders to embrace the fight against poverty,” said Alexandra Sirota, Director of the Budget & Tax Center. “The reality is that we need systemic responses and a collective investment in institutions that are building pathways to opportunity and tearing down barriers that exist for too many of our neighbors.”

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.

“Although we are seeing slow progress to bring poverty down, we must do more to drive the current expansion to do more for those who are struggling the most,” Sirota said. “It has taken our state a decade of economic growth to bring the poverty rate back to pre-recession levels. That is too long for a child to live in poverty and it will take too long to repair the damage of even a spell of hardship.”

Among the report findings:

  • North Carolina’s poverty rate is 1 percentage point higher than the U.S. rate (13.1 percent), and 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 last year and is at its lowest since 2007, when the Great Recession hit.
  • The state’s median income ($53,855) 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.