MEDIA RELEASE: Preliminary Data on Poverty in the Nation Shows Hardship Persists

Addressing the jobs deficit is critical to ensuring the economic recovery delivers opportunities to North Carolinians, say analysts

RALEIGH (Sep. 12, 2012) – United States Census Bureau data released today shows that the official national poverty rate for 2011 remained higher than pre-recession levels despite three years of an official economic recovery. While the national poverty rate fell to 15.0 percent in 2011 from 15.1 percent in 2010, the change was not statistically significant.

46.2 million Americans still lived in poverty in 2011. The preliminary federal poverty level in 2011 was $11,491 for an individual and $23,018 for a family of four.

“More definitive state-level data will be released next week but these numbers demonstrate that North Carolina continues to struggle with an official economic recovery that is not reducing economic hardship for many,” said Alexandra Sirota, Director of the Budget and Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

Preliminary state-level data released today by the Census Bureau show that the poverty rate in North Carolina increased to 16.4 percent in 2010-11 from 15.4 percent in 2008-09. [Because this state-level data is preliminary, it is advised to use two-year average figures to evaluate the state-level trend over time] While these figures suggest an increasing number of North Carolinians are experiencing greater economic hardships throughout the recovery, it is important to note that the state-level change is not statistically significant. Poverty in North Carolina still remains above the pre-recession poverty rate of 14.7 percent.

“The new data shows that many North Carolinians are still struggling to get by, and we need to step up our efforts to help. Policymakers must focus on closing the jobs deficit and ensuring supports for working families in tough times are available,” said Alexandra Sirota, director of the Budget and Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center.

On September 20, the Census Bureau will release more definitive and detailed state-level poverty and income data as part of the American Community Survey. For a primer on the distinction between these two data sources, see this memo.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tazra Mitchell, BTC Fellow,, 919.861.1451; Alexandra Forter Sirota, BTC Director,, 919.861.1468; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, NC Justice Center,, 503.551.3615 (cell).