Report shows how much Chatham, N.C. residents need to survive economically

Posted 8/28/20

A recent report on poverty created for the United Way of North Carolina shows many families in the state are “struggling to stretch their wages to meet the costs of basic necessities.”

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Report shows how much Chatham, N.C. residents need to survive economically

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Posted

A recent report on poverty created for the United Way of North Carolina shows many families in the state are “struggling to stretch their wages to meet the costs of basic necessities.”

The report, created by Diana M. Pearce, a faculty member of the Center for Women’s Welfare at the University of Washington School of Social Work, studied the “growing gap between sluggish wages and ever-increasing expenses.” The report measures the self-sufficiency standard, which is the amount a person or family needs to meet basic needs, such as housing, food, transportation, childcare, healthcare and other necessities, without public or private assistance.

According to the report, in the past 24 years the self-sufficiency standard in North Carolina increased on average about 101%, with counties such as Wake and Mecklenburg increasing at greater rates. A single person needs to make $9.47 per hour to meet their needs, while a single adult with a child needs double that at $18.42 per hour. When reviewing the average wages for a variety of occupations in North Carolina, the report determined that “wages are low enough that even two adults working full time in the majority of the top 10 occupations cannot earn enough to meet their families’ basic needs at a minimally adequate level.”

In Chatham County, the self-sufficiency standard — meaning the minimum wage level required for a family of one adult and two children — is $58,989 a year, or $66,880 for a family of four. This puts Chatham County as one of the more expensive counties in which to live, on par with more urban and populated counties. The standard for a single parent is between $44,485 and $54,453 per year to make ends meet.

The report does not dive into actual earnings and salaries for the populations of each county. But according to a Chatham County Economic Development Corporation report last year, the median household income in the county is $59,684 — higher than the self-sufficiency standard. That same report, however, addresses the regional divide of income in the state. While the north and eastern portions of the county reports average incomes between $60,000 and $80,000, the western portion of the county and the areas in and around Siler City average far lower, between $23,000 and $44,000. This means that significant portions of Chatham County do not earn enough to afford the basic necessities without public or private assistance.

In addition, the EDC confirmed that more than 58% of Chatham residents travel outside of the county for work. For those who work inside the county, the average hourly wage for all occupations in $19.03, $3 below the state average. But the deviation in wages from the state average varies depending on the occupation. For example, construction, production and healthcare workers tend to make more than the state average per hour. But for nearly every other category of job ­— office, management, services — some Chatham job wages are far below the state average.

As the cost of living continues to rise in Chatham County and as average homes prices reach above $300,000, sluggish wages may continue to increase the regional income divide, pushing more families to public assistance to make ends meet.

Casey Mann can be reached at CaseyMann@Chathamnr.com.

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