Number of North Carolina Children Living in High-Poverty Communities Surges

Raleigh, NC – The number of children living in high-poverty communities in North Carolina more than doubled over the past decade, according to a new KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. One in 10 children in North Carolina now lives in high-poverty communities, up from 4 percent in 2000. 

In Vance County, 54% of children live in poverty.

The report uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to identify areas where at least 30 percent of residents fall below the federal poverty level-$23,050 for a family of four. Research shows as neighborhood poverty rates increase, undesirable outcomes also rise as opportunities for success dwindle.

“Where children live directly influences their chances for future life success,” said Barb Bradley, President and CEO of Action for Children North Carolina, a leading statewide child research and advocacy organization. “Children need safe, stable environments to ensure healthy development. When children grow up in high-poverty neighborhoods, they are cut-off from the critical educational, medical and economic supports they need to grow.”

The data highlight areas in North Carolina where children are most likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods. While urban counties account for the largest numbers of children living in concentrated poverty, children in rural, northeastern counties are far more likely to live in high-poverty areas than their peers.  Of the ten counties with the highest rates of children living in concentrated poverty, half are clustered in the northeast, where eroding family economic security caused by high rates of unemployment puts families at risk.

The report finds that children in the south and southwest parts of the country are most likely to live in high-poverty areas; as are African American, Latino and American Indian children.  Children of color are six to nine times more likely to live in areas of concentrated poverty than their white counterparts, creating a double jeopardy of living in low-income households in economically distressed communities.

“North Carolina’s future economic success depends on our ability to transition this generation of children into tomorrow’s workers, entrepreneurs, innovators and thought leaders,” said Bradley. “To accomplish this goal, we must ensure all children have access to the tools they need to be successful, regardless of where they live.”

These findings come on the heels of an announcement from the Governor’s office that makes 2,000 additional early education slots immediately available for at-risk four year olds through the NC Pre-K program, formerly More at Four.  Such evidence-based programs are ripe for state investment. Studies indicate high-quality early education programs can help reduce the dampening effects poverty has on children’s academic achievement by better preparing them to enter school ready to learn.

“We applaud the Governor’s commitment to ensuring all children in North Carolina can get the education they need to excel in school and later in life,” said Bradley. “We urge our legislators to invest in what we know works. In addition to early childhood programs, research has shown that the Earned Income Tax Credit is the most effective tool for lifting families out of poverty. Affordable housing via the N.C. Housing Trust Fund and expanding access to medical coverage through NC Health Choice are all crucial investments.”

Click here to view an interactive map of North Carolina.

Action for Children North Carolina is a leading statewide, nonpartisan, nonprofit policy research and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that North Carolina children are healthy, safe, well-educated and have every opportunity for success.