County-wide poverty rates for all Western North Carolina counties, released today by the U.S. Census Bureau, show that nearly one out of every five mountain residents lived in poverty last year in more than half of the region’s 17 counties.

Carolina Public Press analyzed the county-wide data for all residents and children under age 18. It showed that the hardest-hit county for all residents was Rutherford, where an estimated 25 percent of the residents lived in poverty last year. By way of comparison, the statewide poverty rate for 2010 was 17.4 percent. Graham County had the highest estimated poverty rate for children under age 18, where the level reached 34.2 percent, nearly 10 percentage points higher than the statewide rate, which was 24.6 percent.

WNC residents living in poverty, 2007 and 2010. Click to view full-size image, and download a fact sheet on WNC’s county-wide poverty rates below.

In all but one county in the region, children under 18 lived in poverty at a higher rate than the statewide rate, which was 24.6 percent. The hardest-hit areas were, in addition to Graham County, Macon, Yancey, Clay, Cherokee, Rutherford, and Avery counties, where more than one out of three children under age 18 lived in poverty, according to the federal agency’s 2010 estimates. Only Buncombe County’s childhood poverty rate, at 24.2 percent, was lower than the state’s rate.

Nationally, between 2007 and 2010, the poverty rate for school-age children showed a statistically significant increase in about 20 percent of counties across the United States, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. The 2010 Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) data are available for 3,142 counties and nearly 14,000 Title I-eligible school districts. The data represent the only current, single-year income and poverty estimates available for all sizes of counties and school districts.

WNC children under age 18 living in poverty, 2007 and 2010. Click to view full-size image, and download a fact sheet on WNC’s county-wide poverty rates below.

Avery and Clay counties had the highest increase in childhood poverty rates since 2007, the point at which the national recession began, with both having more than a 10 percentage point increase in three years. That’s double the percentage-point increase statewide for the same time period.

There were areas, however, where the poverty rate remained largely unchanged.

Graham County had the third-highest rate in 2010 for all residents, but that rate was nearly the same as it was three years ago. Cherokee County’s rate only moved .7 percentage points, also, compared to a 8.6 percentage-point increase in three years for Rutherford County, which had the largest growth in its poverty rate than any other WNC county.

But poverty rates for children under 18 increased across the region between 2007 and 2010, estimates show, by at least 3.9 percentage points.

To view county rates for 2007 and 2010 for all ages and for school age children, download our fact sheet here. [PDF]

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Angie Newsome is the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at

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  1. 17 percent of NC 11 citizens is not a ‘tiny faction’, Lori. Your issues about taxation is one to take up with the top 1 percent of income earners and corporations. And yes, going back to a better, more equitable and system ethics version of the Clinton Era will create a boom economy directed at making life better for people like you.

    “Unemployment aid applications drop to 9-month low”


    What if ‘dropped out of the workforce’ also includes a largely censored poverty mortality rate?

    Estimated Deaths Attributable to Social Factors in the United States

    Read More:

    What if over a million Americans died in 2011 due to poverty-related factors?

    Also see: “Filling in gaps to aid WNC”|newswell|text|Opinion|p

  2. So, in other words Grant, your idea amounts to welfare. I am not in favor of taking care of everyone unwilling to get an education with my earned dollars. And I’m not in the wealthy elite faction that you are referring to. I actually work and pay too much of my earned income in taxes, as does every other person not on the ‘welfare take’. And if you added all the bits and pieces of taxes you pay from phone use to every other item you use, Americans are overpaying.

    Therefore, your response in another in a long series of problems when the middle class announce we are being squeezed, you turn the response into something about a tiny, tiny faction of people in this country.

  3. Wealthy Americans have the lowest tax rates of any advanced industrial society. Through loopholes, the same goes for our corporations. Those are no longer ‘debate points’ but common facts.

    What happens at the bottom of the economic pyramid given our economic factors is finally being examined. Good. Couple of things on these kinds for stories: 1) ‘WNC’, in official terms is the western North Carolina Federal judicial district. That’s a line running east of Charlotte, north, and then to the SC, GA, TN and VA borders. 2) I have accessed Syracuse University’s TRAC data on occasion and NC 11 has been at the bottom for Federal direct payments for years: . Literally one or two up from the very bottom of Federal direct payments for food assistance and anti-poverty measures. NC has been near the bottom as a state for many years. 3) The 11th congressional district is what this story covers. It is perfectly fair to ask Rep. Shuler what his anti-poverty plan is at this point. His plan so far is a campaign stunt with 68 people behind it that raised all of $1,000 bucks to address the needs of over 100,000 Americans living in poverty in his district: .

  4. That’s because we pay extremely high taxes in North Carolina. Income Tax, Sales Tax, Property Tax, Excise Tax, Gas Tax, Tax, Tax, Tax…

    You earn a dollar, the federal, state and local governments tax that earned income. You take what is left and drive to the store, the gas tax grabs some more. You buy a loaf of bread, tax grabs some more. You manage to save enough money to buy a home, now, get ready to be taxed forever on that small piece of property for the rest of your life.