© 2023 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

U.S. census data reveal a slight drop in North Carolina's poverty rate

The United Way's grant reductions next year will affect emergency housing organizations like Roof Above (formerly the Urban Ministry Center) and other social service agencies. Homeless residents camped outside the organization's day center in February, before they were moved to shelters and hotels.
David Boraks
Homeless residents camped outside the Roof Above day center in 2022, before they were moved to shelters and hotels.

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau released Thursday reveal a slight decline in the poverty rate in North Carolina — but poverty is still much higher among minority groups.

In North Carolina, poverty rates dropped from 13.4% in 2021 to 12.8% in 2022. Alexandra Sirota, executive director of the nonprofit NC Budget & Tax Center, said the decline can largely be attributed to federal aid.

"North Carolina continues to see the benefits of the federal government's response to the pandemic, which really sought to minimize economic harm and specifically drive income into households to make sure they had what they needed,” Sirota said. “And a lot of that was still available in part in 2022.”

While North Carolina's poverty rate has declined, the rates among different minority groups are still higher. Those poverty rates are:

  • For Black people, 18.7%.
  • 20.7% for Latinos
  • 22.4% for American Indians.
  • Meanwhile, the poverty rate for white people was 9.6%.

Sirota said specific efforts are needed to focus on disadvantaged communities.
"Without a focus on removing barriers to opportunity and ensuring that the policies are designed to address historic disparities and persistent disparities in these outcomes, we won't see the kind of progress that really means a better life for all North Carolinians," she said.

More pandemic-era programs, such as increased pay for childcare providers, are ending soon. That could affect the poverty rate in years to come.

While national data show child poverty more than doubled last year, that data isn't available at the state level yet. North Carolina's child poverty rate is 17.2%, statistically unchanged from a year ago.

“The new data show that there are still too many people living in poverty in North Carolina, including way too many children, and household incomes are stagnating. In the face of rising costs for the basics and continued economic uncertainty, last year’s data points to the focus that policymakers at every level of government must bring to addressing the hardship that families face,” Sirota said. “It is not enough to hope that the economy will deliver better outcomes, policymakers can and must make the reduction of hardship for all people the top priority. That is the true measure of economic success.”

Sign up for EQUALibrium

Elvis Menayese is a Report for America corps member covering issues involving race and equity for WFAE. He previously was a member of the Queens University News Service. Major support for WFAE's Race & Equity Team comes from Novant Health and Wells Fargo.