Economic snapshot has good news, bad news for McDowell

An economic snapshot of McDowell shows a county that has higher levels of people living in poverty when compared to the rest of the state but some wage growth since the Great Recession.

The N.C. Justice Center’s Budget & Tax Center recently produced a report called economic snapshot for all 100 counties in the state. This report contains data about unemployment, housing, poverty, wages and health insurance. The Budget & Tax Center‘s economic snapshots provide a look at how well counties in North Carolina are faring across key indicators of economic well-being and opportunity, according to a news release.

Based in Raleigh, the N.C. Justice Center is a non-profit organization “dedicated to transforming North Carolina’s prosperity into opportunity for all.” Its stated mission is to “eliminate poverty in North Carolina by ensuring that every household in the state has access to the resources, services and fair treatment it needs in order to enjoy economic security,” according to its web site.

In the latest report, the center takes a look at the economic conditions for every county.

The latest report states McDowell has a population of 45,839, an increase of 2.2% over the past decade. The percentage of people in McDowell living in poverty is 16.2% compared to the statewide rate of 14.7% across the state. McDowell has 44.5% of its residents considered as low income ($49,200 or less for a family of four).

Looking closer at the poverty rate, 41.9% of the black residents in McDowell are living in poverty compared to 24.9% of their counterparts across North Carolina. Of the white residents, 17.7% are living in poverty in McDowell compared to 11.1% of their counterparts across North Carolina. Of the Hispanic/Latinx community, 28% are living in poverty in McDowell compared to 30.1% of their counterparts across North Carolina.

Of the child poverty rate, 25.9% of McDowell’s children are living in poverty compared to 26.2% across the state.

Under unemployment, McDowell County’s jobless rate was 3.6% in December 2018 while the statewide rate was 3.7% for that month. There are 68 fewer people employed in McDowell since December 2007 but statewide there are 489,823 more people employed statewide since that time.

The average living income standard for one adult with two kids is $18.26 an hour in McDowell compared to $22.94 an hour statewide. The median hourly wage in McDowell is $15.63 compared to the statewide average of $17.19 an hour.

From 2009 to 2019, the change in the median wage in McDowell grew by 91 cents during the recovery from the Great Recession of 2008. On a statewide basis, the change in the median wage grew by 38 cents in that same time period.

McDowell has a median household income of $42,853 compared to the statewide median income of $52,797. These are based on 2017 statistics.

Under housing, 37.7% of people in McDowell are paying more than 30% of their income towards rent. In other words, rent was unaffordable for 37.7% of renters. Statewide, 48.7% are paying more than 30% of their income towards rent. These statistics are based on the years 2013 to 2017.

The fair market rent for a two-bedroom unit averages at $683 in McDowell. Statewide, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom unit averages at $850.

Under health, 12.4% of McDowell residents did not have health insurance in 2013-2017, compared to 12.1 percent of all North Carolinians. For mental health services, McDowell has a ratio of 627 people for every one mental health provider. The statewide ratio is 439 people for every one mental health provider. These statistics are based on 2019 data.

McDowell has 16.3% of its residents receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits compared to 13% of North Carolina residents.

For education, McDowell has an 85.2% graduation rate compared to 86.3% for the state. The percentage of adults with Bachelor’s degrees is 15.9% in McDowell compared to 28.9% across the state.

The economic snapshot is an annual publication that lists key economic and social indicators at the county level in North Carolina, providing an overall picture of economic vitality and opportunity for North Carolinians. This data profile includes indicators on employment, poverty and income, affordable housing, health, education, and supports for working families — all of which come from a variety of sources, according to the news release.

Key findings for all 100 counties include:

• The richest 5 percent of North Carolina households have an average income that is 28 times greater than the poorest fifth of households.

• Rent is unaffordable for 48.7 percent of North Carolina renters.

• 21 percent of children in North Carolina lived in poverty in 2017, the most recent data available.

“While we are seeing some very small improvements across the state, there are still systemic barriers preventing many people prospering,” says Brian Kennedy, policy analyst with the N.C. Budget & Tax Center. “In 44 counties, wages have fallen over the past decade after adjusting for inflation, and in over one-third of the state’s counties, the unemployment rate of workers of color is double that of white workers.”

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