A newly released socioeconomic report by the N.C. Budget and Tax Center shows on average that more Ashe County residents live in poverty and earn less than their Tar Heel counterparts.
The report, known as the Employment, Income, Poverty, and Inequality in 2008-09, compares how Ashe County’s unemployment, poverty rate, median salary, and wealth disparity ranks against state averages. Altogether, the report provides statistical data for 87 North Carolina counties.
Under the report’s first comparison category, unemployment, it shows that the county’s August 2009 unemployment rate was 4.9 percentage points higher than the 2000 average of 5.1 percent. Altogether, the report showed that the county’s unemployment rate increased from 6.4 percent in August 2008 to 10 percent in August 2009.
This year’s report reveals that 15.6 percent of Ashe County residents live in poverty, compared to the statewide average of 14.6 percent.
In addition, the report indicates that on average, 43.3 percent of Ashe County residents were low-income between 2006 and 2008. This means that their incomes were less than twice the federal poverty level, which is $21,200 for a family of four in 2008.
The Wages and Income section of the report shows that the median household income in the county averaged $35,339 between 2006 and 2008, which equaled 76.6 percent of the statewide household income average of $46,107. Per capita income in Ashe County was only $19,932 on average over the past two years. The statewide average during that same time was $25,015.
Affording basic living expenses on the average salary in Ashe County becomes even more difficult for families with more than one child. According to the report, a working family in Ashe County with two adults and two children need to earn a total of $37,832 for basic living expenses. It also read that a family of that size would require the adults to earn a combined hourly wage of $18.19, which is $3.69 more than the $14.50 hour earned through working two minimum wage jobs.
Single parents of at least two children need to earn an average of $30,900 annually to cover basic expenses. This means that the county’s living income standard for the adult in the family requires them to earn a hourly wage of $14.86, which is $7.61 more than the $7.25 per hour earned in a minimum wage job.
The disparity between Ashe County’s richest and poorest residents continues to grow. According to the “Income Inequality” section of the report, the richest 5 percent of Ashe County’s households had an average income that was 18.2 times greater than that of the poorest fifth of households and 4.6 times greater than that of the middle fifth of households over the past two years.
Tougher economic times have placed higher demand on local governmental agencies, particularly in terms of those individuals who request assistance purchasing basic necessities. In September 2008, 2,794 residents received assistance from the food and nutrition program. This September, that number has increased by 28 percent, bringing the total number of residents who request food stamps to 3,576.
For more information on this year’s report, visit www.ncjustice.org and click on the most recent media release tab.