Educated, high rent, low pay: an economic snapshot of Buncombe

The NC Justice Center has released economic “snapshots” of North Carolina’s 100 counties. The data for Buncombe Count reveals an area with an educated populace and low unemployment, but struggling with affordability and low wages.

During 2010 and 2011, Buncombe’s unemployment, ranging from 7.8 to 7.2 percent, was far lower than the state average (9.5 to 9.9 percent). Buncombe also has a highly-educated population: 31.5 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and the high-school graduation rate (78.3 percent) is higher than most.

While the county’s poverty rate (17.1 percent) and median income ($42,846) were only slightly below the state average, over a third of Buncombe residents (36.2 percent) were low-income. At $695 a week, the average wages were almost $100 below the state average of $791. Since 2007, the amount of residents receiving food stamps has almost doubled: in 2011, 39,396 people in Buncombe received food assistance.

The Asheville area’s lack of affordable housing is a well-known issue locally, and the numbers back that up: 44 percent of renters were unable to afford fair-market rent for a two-bedroom housing unit.

Overall, according to the data, a working family of one adult and two children needs to make $39,428 to afford basic living expenses. A family of two adults and two children needs to make $45,969 to meet the same expenses.

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7 thoughts on “Educated, high rent, low pay: an economic snapshot of Buncombe

  1. artart

    Maybe some people need to use common sense and move to another area where housing costs less and higher paying jobs are available.

  2. thomas.1329

    What about the people who work for min wage(7.25hr)
    695.00 a week is unheard of.That’s working 95+hr a
    week.As far as finding houseing you won’t be need
    it because you have to work.

  3. bill smith

    The rise in home values and therefore mortgages and property taxes over the past two decades have allowed council to reap a lot of benefits. But now Asheville is an over-priced retiree town. One could get a room in a house for a hundred or two ten years ago. Those same rooms are about 400 now. I cant imagine how the typical low-wage service industry employee affords anything other than a shared room somewhere.

    Then again, I have to sympathize a little with those who say maybe people should move on if they can’t afford Asheville. There is always a sacrifice associated with living in such a popular area, and I can’t imagine how wages could be increased without pricing most small businesses out of the market.

  4. washyourowndishes

    Move on, huh? Who is going to take out your trash, wash your dishes, make the hotel beds, serve your beers, mow your lawns etc etc? When you take out the service sector whom we all both exploit and rely upon, no one will take their place, seeing such jobs as beneath them. Gentrified Asheville REQUIRES a low paid service sector to exist. Seems only fair to subsidize its businesses and lifestyle with foodstamps doesn’t it?

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