MEDIA RELEASE: Poverty in North Carolina Continues to Rise

MEDIA RELEASE: Poverty in North Carolina Continues to Rise
Persistent weakness in the economy prolongs hardship for diverse communities across the state

RALEIGH (Sept. 22, 2011) – North Carolina’s poverty rate jumped to 17.5 percent in 2010, a 22 percent increase since the beginning of the recession in 2007, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, highlighting the widespread impact of the recession and need for policymakers to take immediate steps to address the lack of jobs and resulting increased economic hardship.

Following a sharp increase in poverty during the Great Recession, families continued to be pushed into poverty during the official recovery, said a report released today by the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center, as a result of continued high unemployment rates and a lack of jobs. The poverty rate increased more than one percentage point in just one year, with nearly 1.6 million North Carolinians were officially living in poverty last year.

“The surge in poverty signals the need to accelerate job creation and bolster safety-net measures in order to strengthen the economy and alleviate hardship,” said Alexandra Forter Sirota, director of the NC Budget & Tax Center and author of the report. “Without a strong economy where all North Carolinians can benefit, our communities will continue to struggle and the long-term prospects for economic growth will be minimized.”

More than 728,000 North Carolinians were living in deep poverty last year, the report said, meaning that a family is earning just half of the annual income threshold ($22,134) identified as the federal poverty line. Among the key findings from the data:

  • The poverty rate for children rose to 24.9 percent
  • Overall, urban counties experienced higher rates of poverty (19.1 percent) than rural areas (15.4 percent)
  • People of color were more likely to experience poverty in 2010. Approximately 1 in 4 African-Americans and 1 in 3 Latinos in the state were living in poverty.
  • Median household income fell by 12.3 percent to $43,326 in 2010.

Data for the 39 largest counties in the state were also released today and are available in the brief.

The poverty rate didn’t drop after the previous three recessions until one year after the unemployment rate began to drop, the report said, showing that it’s unlikely the poverty rate will improve in 2011.

“This jump in poverty and the deterioration in the labor market underscores the need for more public investment in safety-net and job creation measures, not less,” Sirota said. “Policymakers should put in place policies to support the middle-class not cut away the programs that have supported economic security for many North Carolinians over the years.”

Click here for a complete statement by the BTC.

Alexandra Forter Sirota, Director, NC Budget & Tax Center,, 919.861.1468; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, NC Justice Center,, 503.551.3615 (cell).

The N.C. Budget and Tax Center—a project of the N.C. Justice Center—seeks to create economic opportunity and shared prosperity for all North Carolinians through non-partisan research, education and advocacy on budget, tax and economic issues.