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.