Economic growth skips families

The financial well-being of the average North Carolina family has not improved in the past five years, despite the statewide economic recovery, a new analysis of U.S. Census data says.

North Carolina’s median household income was $42,625 in 2006, but after adjusting for inflation, that median fell to below the average income in 2001 of $44,244.

“By this point, the economic recovery that began in 2001 should have produced income gains for families,” John Quinterno, research associate at the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center, says in a statement.

Instead, the state’s median household income remains below the national average, and county-level data indicate growing inequalities in geographical wealth, even within urban centers, Quinterno says.

Despite a decrease in the share of North Carolina families living in poverty, down to 10.7 percent in 2006 from 11.7 percent in 2005, the poverty rate remains virtually unchanged since 2001.

“Economic growth, though necessary, is insufficient to lift families and children out of poverty,” Quinterno says. “Smart public investments, such as the recently enacted state Earned Income Tax Credit, are needed to help working families share in North Carolina’s prosperity.”

The number of North Carolinians who cannot afford health insurance has grown significantly since 1999-2000 to 1.4 million from 1 million, while the rate of uninsured in the state grew to 16.6 percent in 2006 from 15.1 percent in 2004.

The state’s congressional representatives may not be reacting adequately to these challenges, Adam Searing, director of the North Carolina Health Access Coalition, says in a statement, noting that several congressmen recently voted against expanded health care for children.

“Parents need affordable coverage for their kids and our members of Congress need to help kids see the doctor instead of playing politics,” he says.

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