North Carolina still lags behind other states when it comes to the economic well-being of its residents, a study found, despite the fact that the national and state economies have strengthened considerably during the five-year recovery.
The state ranks 41st in terms of overall outcomes of its residents, according to an analysis published Thursday from the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. The report evaluated states on 67 criteria related to finances, employment, housing, health care and education.
The report underscores how the disproportionate growth of low-wage jobs, as well as lower education attainment and health care coverage, means many North Carolinians are still on a shakier economic footing than the rest of the country.
“When North Carolina families struggle every month to make ends meet, they have little ability to save and build a more financially secure future,” said Donna Gallagher, steering committee member of the North Carolina Assets Alliance and executive director of a nonprofit called The Collaborative.
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Nationally, 14.7 percent of households lived below the poverty line in 2013, while in North Carolina, 16.3 percent did, according to the study. Average annual pay was also lower in North Carolina compared with the U.S. average – $47,811 versus $49,808, respectively.
The growth of jobs considered “low-wage” – meaning annual pay below the poverty threshold for a family of four ($23,283) – has persisted in most states since even before the Great Recession. Though one of every four jobs was considered low-wage in the U.S. in 2012, according to the report, in North Carolina, it was 31.5 percent.
At 64.3 percent, the homeownership rate was a bit higher in North Carolina in 2013 than the national average of 63.5 percent, the analysis showed.
Nationally in 2013, 16.7 percent of the nonelderly population was without health care, compared with 18.1 percent in North Carolina.
And in terms of education, the state also fell behind the national average number of adults with a high school degree or GED in 2013: 85.7 percent in North Carolina compared with 86.6 percent in the U.S. Further, 21.4 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds were enrolled in early childhood education in North Carolina, compared with 27.4 nationally.