Press Release: How child poverty has changed in every North Carolina county

New county data cards present crucial benchmarks on child health and well-being in all 100 counties

By: Fawn Pattison | April 2022

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CONTACT:  Fawn Pattison

RALEIGH – As North Carolina families struggle with increasing grocery and gas prices, most of the programs that helped low-income families keep their homes and keep food on the table during the pandemic are expiring. New data shows that pandemic-era policies buffered children in particular against some of the worst impacts of poverty. NC Child today released its annual County Data Cards, highlighting key indicators of child well-being that elected officials should track, and respond to, in their communities.

Explore your county’s data at:

“Living in poverty is the single greatest threat to children’s healthy development,” said Vikki Crouse, KIDS COUNT Project Director at NC Child. “We see that across every indicator, from health to education to involvement in the criminal justice system. But we do not have to accept child poverty as a given. The data are showing us that we have the tools to fight child poverty, and they work.”

In 2020, the latest full year with available data, 42.8% of NC children lived in poor or low-income homes. The five counties with the highest child poverty levels in 2020 included: Scotland (70.2%), Halifax (69.2%), Robeson (66.5%), Tyrrell (64.1%) and Alleghany (63.0%) counties. The counties with the lowest child poverty levels included: Orange (25.4%), Wake (26.6%), Union (27.1%), Currituck (30.6%) and Gates (31.4%) counties.

Across the state, children most at risk of living in poor or low-income homes include:

  • Black and Latinx children. Years of barriers to family economic mobility continue to hold back opportunity from many Black and Latinx children;
  • Children under age 6, who are more likely to be born to parents who are younger and less financially established; and
  • Children in rural counties, where low incomes are often compounded by limited access to core needs like transportation and health care.

Dynamic data site for state and local officials to track key child indicators

NC Child’s County Data Cards are part of an interactive data site. This dynamic site allows users to dig deeper on specific data points in each county. Users can view data disaggregated by race, and compare data points across counties. The data cover the following categories:

  • A Strong Start (includes pre-term births, pre-natal care, and babies born at low birthweight);
  • Family Economic Security (includes rates of poverty and hunger, and median income);
  • Nurturing Homes and Communities (includes delinquency, abuse & neglect, and teen births);
  • Health and Wellness (includes child deaths, infant mortality, and lack of health insurance); and
  • High-Quality Education (includes education levels, high school graduation, and third-grade reading).

Health coverage remained stable

Health coverage is key for family financial stability, and for children’s healthy development. Despite widespread job losses in 2020 – including loss of employer-sponsored health insurance for many – the rate of children without health insurance remained fairly stable across the state at 5.3%. This shows that Medicaid and other public insurance programs played a critical role in protecting health coverage for children, and financial stability for families.

The counties with the highest rates of uninsured children are mostly concentrated in the northeast corner of the state. More than 10% of children are uninsured in Hyde, Currituck, Duplin and Perquimans counties. In Swain county 24% of children have no health coverage.

Statewide, 14% of adults had no health coverage in 2020 – including many parents and caregivers that children rely on to care for them. The highest rates of adults with no health coverage are in Swain, Hyde, Sampson, Duplin, Robeson, and Clay counties, where 1 in 5 adults has no health coverage.

To keep people covered, Congress has put forward major incentives for states like North Carolina to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income adults. The state legislature is considering Medicaid expansion now.

Key policies that helped families weather the pandemic in 2020 and 21 include: 

  • Direct cash payments to low- and middle-income families via stimulus checks (2020) and the expanded Child Tax Credit (2021);
  • Increased food assistance benefits;
  • Uninterrupted health insurance coverage for those on Medicaid;
  • Increased rental assistance; and
  • An eviction moratorium that protected many families from homelessness.

For complete data notes, sources, and graphics, visit:

NC Child is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to build a strong North Carolina by advancing public policies to ensure all children – regardless of race, ethnicity, or place of birth – have the opportunity to thrive.