RALEIGH (March 27, 2019) — Many families in North Carolina do not earn enough to pay for their basic needs, according to a new report by the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. Many more live paycheck to paycheck and don’t earn enough to save in order to plan for their future or invest in their children and their education.
The Budget & Tax Center has updated its Living Income Standard (LIS) for 2019, a measurement that gives a more accurate and comprehensive picture than more traditional measures of what it takes for a family to make ends meet in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. For example, the LIS shows that in North Carolina, a family of two adults and two children must earn $52,946 a year in order to actually afford housing, food, child care, health care, transportation, taxes, and other necessities – more than double the federal poverty threshold for a family of four. The report also breaks the numbers down by county and family type. The same family of four living in Mecklenburg County would need to earn $59,597 to afford the basics, while a Richmond County family would need to earn $44,163.
“When workers aren’t paid what it takes to meet their basic needs, they have to make decisions that hurt the well-being of their families, the vitality of communities, and the strength of North Carolina’s economy,” said Brian Kennedy II, a Policy Analyst with the Budget & Tax Center and author of the report. “When work doesn’t pay, workers have to take on multiple jobs, cut back on savings, take on debt, turn to public programs to make up the difference in their household budget, and reduce their investments in their own future productivity.”
The report details the problems with current measures like the Federal Poverty Level and the federal minimum wage, which don’t accurately reflect what is actually needed to make ends meet in North Carolina. For example, the Federal Poverty Level doesn’t take into account expenses such as child care or regional differences in the cost of living.
To meet the LIS, adults in an average four-person family would need to earn more than a combined $25 an hour, working full time. Yet, if current employment and industry trends continue, fewer and fewer jobs in North Carolina will meet this wage standard.