- That's Racin' - Yellow Pages - Entertainment - Travel - Community
Local Guide - Weather - Sports - Health - Careers - Real Estate - - Classifieds

KR Real Cities. Real News. Real Information. Real People.
   Front Page
   Local News
   Siers cartoon
   Observer Forum
   Business News
   Business Update
   Business Monday
   Industry news
   Stock Quotes
   Mortgage Rates
   Tax value search
   Today's Stories
   Message Boards
   That's Racin'
   Book reviews
   Site index
   City Guide
   Contact us

KR Real Cities. Real News. Real Information. Real People.
KR Real Cities. Real News. Real Information. Real People.
First Impressions
Published Monday, August 6, 2001
E-mail this story to a friend

census survey

Boom bypasses Carolinas poverty

250,000 More poor seen in N.C., S.C. than 10 years ago


Despite a booming economy and double-digit job growth during the 1990s, more than 1.5million people throughout the Carolinas remain bogged down by poverty.

In both states, a quarter of the families with kids need government help for their children to buy lunch at school, and more than 1 out of 10 families earns less than $15,000 a year.

The Census 2000 Supplementary Survey, a nationwide study conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and released today, found that nearly 250,000 more people in both states are living in poverty than 10 years ago - particularly children. But far fewer poor families receive public assistance, due to changes in welfare.

"Even though we're putting more people to work, we've got more people coming in, and we're having a hard time keeping up," said Jake Jacobsen, Mecklenburg County Social Services director.

The survey of 700,000 U.S. households asks many of the same questions as the 2000 Census, but it used a representative sample rather than a complete count, so the results may differ. It gives the most complete look to date in areas such as income, employment and poverty levels; full census results won't be released until next year.

The survey does contain some bright spots. The per-person income in both Carolinas moved closer to the national average, and residents are more educated on average than they were 10 years ago.

More people are working, too. But the manufacturing industry in the Carolinas continued to unravel during the '90s, as textile and other plants closed down or left the country.

"It really can't be emphasized too much how our economy has changed over the last 25 years," said Michael Walden, an economist at N.C. State University. "We've got new types of jobs, new types of businesses moving in."

Families were surveyed in 37 N.C. counties and 19 in South Carolina, with statewide results calculated from those samples.

The survey shows that poverty rates are about the same as a decade ago - 15 percent in South Carolina and 13 percent in North Carolina.

But as populations grow, so does the number of people living in poverty: about 1 million in North Carolina (up 195,000 from 1990); and some 573,000 in South Carolina (up about 50,000).

Jacobsen says about half his department's caseload involves people who move here from elsewhere. He walked through the parking lot recently and noticed the out-of-state license plates.

"Our boosterism has not helped us if we've got people coming in from Illinois and Oregon thinking there are jobs here" who then need public aid, he said.

Children suffer from poverty even more than adults. The rate of child poverty far exceeds that of adults. About 1 in 5 Carolinians under the age of 18 is considered poor. That's 200,000 children in South Carolina and 366,000 in North Carolina.

Meanwhile, fewer residents of both states are receiving public assistance. Only two states - Mississippi and Louisiana - had steeper declines than South Carolina in the percentage of households getting government aid.

That's due largely to a healthy economy and national, state and county welfare changes during the 1990s. These change eligibility requirements and limited how long people without jobs could receive public assistance.

While 8 percent of S.C. households received help in 1990, only about 1 percent received it in 2000 - an 81 percent decline in the number of families.

North Carolina saw a 70 percent dip in households receiving aid, while the nation had a 61 percent drop. About 3 percent of all U.S. homes receive public help.

Jacobsen attributes part of the drop to the booming '90s economy, which provided jobs.

But the caseloads at his agency have been shooting up during the past year, as the economy slows.

"We had our biggest months ever in June and July," he said. "They're coming in faster than we can move them out."

The workforce in both Carolinas grew dramatically during the decade, with 17 percent more jobs in North Carolina and 12 percent more in South Carolina.

But a smaller number of them were in manufacturing. South Carolina lost 23 percent of its manufacturing jobs, while North Carolina saw a 17 percent decline, down to 1 in 5 workers. In 1970, 35 percent of the state's workers were in manufacturing.

Textiles, apparel and tobacco account for the changes, Walden said. Other manufacturing jobs, such as transportation equipment, computers and pharmaceuticals, are rising.

"We've had growth in the high-tech sector," he said, "which means a growth in high-paying jobs."

Chris Roberts, a reporter for the Columbia (S.C.) State, contributed to this article. Reach Scott Dodd: (704) 358-5168.

Children in Poverty in the Carolinas
1 in 5: The ratio of Carolinas children under the age of 18 that are considered poor. 366,000: Poor children in North Carolina. 200,000: Poor children in South Carolina.

Send this story to a friend
Just enter your email address and
the address of the recipient