Nearly 1.7 million North Carolinians lived in poverty last year, NC Justice Center reports

Press release

From the NC Justice Center

The number of North Carolinians living in poverty remained high last year despite the economic recovery, showing the continuing pain of the recession and underscoring the need for North Carolina to do more to protect children and families.

Approximately 1 in 5 North Carolinians, or 17.9 percent, lived below the poverty line in 2011, according to new Census Bureau data released today. The federal poverty level in 2011 was $11,484 for an individual and $23,021 for a family of four.

Since the beginning of the Great Recession, North Carolina lawmakers have made deep cuts to health care, education and other key services that help families struggling in tough times, and these cuts along with the continued persistence of a significant job deficit have contributed to North Carolina’s persistently high poverty levels. Continuing a cuts-only approach would further slow the economic recovery by eliminating more jobs, both public- and private-sector, and cutting vital support for struggling North Carolina families.

“When the government slashes spending, it not only hurts the ability of the state to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable, but also takes money out of our economy,” said Alexandra Sirota, the Director of the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center. “The ultimate result is fewer people are lifted out of poverty and the economic recovery is slowed.”

The lack of jobs and the continued growth of low-wage jobs likely contributed to the other data trend seen for North Carolina: the decline in median household income. Median household income declined from last year by 1.8 percent, meaning the median household had $810 fewer dollars to meet their basic needs.

According to the newly released Census data:

• 25.6 percent of North Carolina’s children lived in poverty in 2011.

• 28.0 percent of African Americans and 34.9 percent of Latinos lived in poverty in 2011, compared to 12.1 percent of whites.

• 737,380 North Carolinians lived in deep poverty, meaning they earn less than half of the annual income threshold identified above as the federal poverty line.

“These data show that North Carolinians in communities across the state are struggling to make ends meet and get ahead during the weak economic recovery. Census data also confirms that the gap between the poorest and richest households is growing in North Carolina. Incomes are falling across the board but households in the bottom fifth are seeing their incomes shrink the fastest,” said Tazra Mitchell, a Public Policy Fellow at the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center.

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

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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