Economic insecurity surged to record levels in North Carolina as the recession deepened, topping the pain felt in most other states, according to a report released Thursday.
The “Economic Insecurity Across the American States” study found North Carolina’s economic security index, which tracks big hits to consumers’ household income, climbed to nearly 22 percent in 2008, higher than the national average. The state ranked 12th in the U.S. based on its average level of economic insecurity from 2008 to 2010.
And in 2010, more than 1 in 5 North Carolina residents experienced large economic losses, the study found.
“North Carolina experienced even higher levels of insecurity than the country as a whole,” report co-author Jacob Hacker, a Yale University professor, said in a news release. “And as in the rest of the country, economic insecurity is substantially greater in North Carolina today than it was a generation ago.”
The state’s insecurity index jumped 41 percent from 1986 to 2010, mirroring a broader national trend. In 2010, the study found, roughly 1.5 million people in North Carolina experienced a major economic loss, compared with 689,000 in 1986. The state’s average index level after the recession hit, 21.6 percent, was higher than the national average, 20.3 percent.
The economic security index, part of a Rockefeller Foundation initiative to improve economic security among American workers and their families, measures the proportion of people who lose at least 25 percent of their household income from one year to the next, due to changes in income or changes in out-of-pocket medical spending.
Economic insecurity might be higher in North Carolina because of higher concentrations of people known to be more vulnerable to risk, the study’s authors found. Large economic losses are more prevalent, for instance, among households headed by blacks or Hispanics, single parents or people without a college degree.
The report, three years after the recession officially ended, highlights the pain that continues across much of the country. Unemployment remains elevated and economic growth sluggish – and a number of American households are still struggling, the study found.
Every state experienced record insecurity in the years after the recession hit, the report found. And even the state with the lowest percentage of economic losses, New Hampshire, posted an insecurity rate of about 17 percent. Mississippi’s economic insecurity level was the highest in the country, at 24 percent.
But the report also found economic pain had been on the rise in the decades before the latest downturn: Every state experienced a substantial jump in economic insecurity between 1986 and 2010, it said.
In other words, “American households were becoming more vulnerable to large losses in income even before the Great Recession.”