RALEIGH, NC—Action for Children North Carolina’s Laila Bell, director of research and data, issued the following comments regarding today’s release of the American Community Survey:
“The latest release of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey shows children and families in North Carolina are considerably worse off than they were before the economic collapse of 2007. Three years into the national recovery, poverty rates in North Carolina remain at record highs and median household incomes remain far below pre-recession levels.
After climbing for four consecutive years, North Carolina’s child poverty rate stabilized between 2011 and 2012. A closer look at the data reveals dramatic disparities by age and ethnicity. Over half a million children (586,104; 26 percent) in North Carolina live in poverty–$18,284 annual income for a family of three in 2012—the 10th highest child poverty rate in the nation. Young children remain disproportionately likely to be poor (30.2 percent), as are Black (40.9 percent) and Hispanic (43.6 percent) children.
North Carolina’s future prosperity is writ large on the faces of its children and youth. When children grow up in safe, economically secure homes we all reap the benefits of healthier communities, educated workers and stronger state and local economies. Alternatively, when more than a quarter of our children live in poverty North Carolina risks losing generations of workers, leaders and entrepreneurs to diminished outcomes.
We know what works to protect children and families from poverty: investments in education, access to high-quality health care and a robust social safety net to safeguard vulnerable families during tough economic times. These strategies are supported by the data. In 2012, poverty among North Carolinians age 25 or older who held at least a bachelor’s degree was 4.1 percent, a slight increase over the 2007 rate of 3.4 percent. In contrast, North Carolinians with a high school diploma or less were increasingly likely live in poverty, growing from 37.4 percent to 46.9 percent in the same period.
No policymaker who claims to care about North Carolina’s future can justify ignoring the state’s poverty problem. It’s time for comprehensive anti-poverty solutions which include improving the education levels and job skills of parents so they can qualify for higher paying jobs, bolstering the financial security of families during a sluggish state economic recovery and preserving children’s access to high-quality education so they can develop the skills they need to compete when they are adults.
Poverty is not an intractable issue. In fact, history has shown progress is possible when firm commitments to anti-poverty strategies are made. In 1966, one in every three Americans age 65 and older lived in poverty during their golden years. Sustained investments in programs that improved seniors’ access to health care and stabilized their finances lead to steady declines in senior poverty. Today, the national poverty rate for people age 65 and older is 9.5 percent, and one in ten North Carolinia seniors live poverty.“
Click here to download a table of poverty rates by age group and median household income for the 40 largest counties in North Carolina.