How are we doing? – State per-capita income lags

[Editor’s note: The N.C. Progress Board, a group created by state lawmakers to track trends in North Carolina and set goals for the state, issued its first report in December 2001.

[Each week, the Philanthropy Journal spotlights an issue examined in the report. The goals, targets and analysis below are those of the Progress Board.]

GOAL: North Carolina promotes dynamic, diverse and sustainable economic growth across all regions and demographic groups.

TARGET: North Carolina ranks in the top 20 states in personal income or at least 100 percent of the U.S. average.

Despite some progress during the 1990s, our state continues to trail the nation in per-capita income.

From 1990 to 1999, North Carolina’s per-capita personal income grew from 87 percent to 91 percent of the U.S. average, and the national per-capita rank grew to 32nd from 35th.

MEASURE: National ranking in personal income.

From 1994 to 1998, North Carolina enjoyed the 13th-highest growth rate in the U.S. in per-capita income.

In 1998, North Carolina ranked as high as 28th in per-capita income.

In 1999, however, to Hurricane Floyd damage in part caused North Carolina to have the slowest rate of growth in the U.S> in per-capita income, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

TARGET: The ratio of non-metro per-capita income to metro per-capita income will be at least 80 percent.

Despite our impressive statewide economic performance, some segments have been left behind.

In particular, the state’s rural areas have fared poorly in median family income and employment — and may be losing their ability to compete.

According to the N.C. Department of Commerce, urban areas have more than twice the capacity of rural areas to finance community investments.

The gap is also widening between the state’s rich and poor, creating another potential threat to economic prosperity.

Between 1980 and 1998, real average incomes increased by nearly 40 percent for the wealthiest fifth of households — but less than 1percent for the poorest.

MEASURE: Ratio of per-capita income in rural areas to per-capita income in urban areas.

In 1991, the ratio of per-capita income in rural areas to per-capita income in urban areas was 76 percent, compared to 75 percent in 1996, according to the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center.

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