Poverty in North Carolina

Who's poor in North Carolina? The answers might surprise you.

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Who's poor in North Carolina? The answers might surprise you.

According to the federal government, poverty level was defined in 2012 as an annual income of $23,283 or less for a family of four, or $11,945 for an individual.

The overall poverty rate for North Carolina in 2012 was 17.2 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

The rate hasn't changed much since 1986, when a WRAL documentary called "Every Fourth Child" explored the challenges a quarter of the state's children living in poverty face every day. Almost 30 years later, WRAL returned to reconnect with those families in a new documentary called "Every Fourth Child ... Still" to explore why the problem is so hard to solve.

Demographically, 12.9 percent of white North Carolinians lived in poverty in 2012. More than a quarter – 27.1 percent – of black residents were living in poverty. American Indians experienced a poverty rate of 29.8 percent. And 34.2 percent – more than a third – of Hispanic North Carolinians lived in poverty.

Families at Risk

According to the American Community Survey, 12.4 percent of all families in North Carolina lived at or below poverty level for at least a year between 2008 and 2012.

Families with children are at a much higher risk of poverty. For families with children under 18, the poverty rate was 19.8 percent. For families with children under 5 only, it was 21.2 percent.

Women and single mothers are at even greater risk. 34 percent of households led by women were living in poverty. With children under 18, that statistic jumps to 42.8%. And for single mothers with children under 5 only, it's 51.6 percent - more than half lived in poverty.

Explore the map above to find out how poverty affects each of North Carolina's 100 counties, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Public Assistance 

According to the U.S.Census Bureau, 572,468 households in North Carolina received SNAP (also known as "food stamps") in 2012. 

Three-quarters of those households – 75.8 percent – had at least one employed wage earner during the past year.

More than a quarter – 26.2 percent –had two wage earners during the past year, yet they still qualified for assistance.

Only 24.2 percent of SNAP households had no wage earner. 

Demographically, whites made up the largest pool of SNAP recipients in North Carolina in 2012, at 45.9 percent.

Blacks accounted for 41.9 percent of the total. Hispanics made up 8 percent, and American Indians were 2.2 percent.


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