Here’s How Much a Single NC Parent with One Kid Needs to Earn to Barely Make Ends Meet

A new analysis shows that even in the state's poorest of counties, wages aren't keeping up with the cost of living. (Shutterstock)

By Michael McElroy

June 6, 2022

Even in the state’s most rural counties, there’s a big difference between what people are earning and what they need to survive.

Even as the state booms with new jobs, development, and a growing population, millions of North Carolinians are unable to pay for their basic needs.

An analysis by the nonpartisan North Carolina Budget and Tax Center shows how stark the problem is. (The graphic shows a sampling of the reality in lower-income counties across the state.)

Graphic for Cardinal & Pine by Desiree Tapia

In Edgecombe County, for example, a single parent with one kid needs to make $43,880 a year to reach a living income standard, the group said, a metric that defines “the basic floor for what families need to get by.” (In other words, we are not talking a budget full of frills here.)

But the actual median income in Edgecombe, according to US Census data, is $40,489 a year. The pattern holds over for much of North Carolina’s low income counties.

The state’s minimum wage is still the federal standard of $7.25 an hour. At that amount, a single parent with two children would need to work 145 hours a week to be able to cover basic household necessities.

North Carolina has not raised its minimum wage in 13 years.  Though multiple bills have been introduced since 2017 to solve the problem, the Republican-controlled General Assembly has not brought any of them to a vote.


  • Michael McElroy

    Michael McElroy is Cardinal & Pine's political correspondent. He is an adjunct instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and a former editor at The New York Times.

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