A midyear North Carolina snapshot

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One of North Carolina’s great traditions is the annual community gathering to observe Independence Day. In the town of Oriental, all the churches unite for an outdoor community worship service, held as part of the annual Croaker Festival.

We sat under the branches of a giant Oak, a gentle breeze providing comfort from the heat, and sang the traditional songs: “God Bless America,” “America the Beautiful,” and “God of Our Fathers.” The town’s pastors reminded the large gathering how richly blessed we are to live in this land and what privilege we enjoy as fruit of the sacrifices made for us. Our challenge is to continue to seek liberty and justice for all.

Holidays are good occasions for family pictures, so let’s take a snapshot of North Carolina at mid-year. Please forgive the plethora of statistics, but they help bring our picture into greater focus.

The Census Bureau and our State Demographer tell us that North Carolina is getting older, due to declining fertility rates, declining teen pregnancy rates, our state’s desirability for retirees and the aging of baby boomers. In 1990, the median age of our state was 33.1 years; by 2000 we were at 35.3 and now the median is 38.9. Almost 16.5 percent of us are over 65. Interestingly, Brunswick County, our fastest growing, also has the oldest median age (54.7 years) and it is no surprise that Onslow, home to Camp LeJeune, has the youngest at 26.8 years.

Minorities accounted for two-thirds of our population growth between 2010 and 2018. The fastest growing racial group is Asians, but even with a 51 percent increase since 2010, they still only account for 3.1 percent of our population. We are home to almost 1 million Hispanics, now 9.6 percent of our total. African-Americans have increased slightly (21.4 percent) and there are 21 counties, including Durham, Guilford and Mecklenburg, that have majority-minority populations, up from 16 in 2010. Non-Hispanic whites are still the largest racial group at 62.8 percent, however that number is steadily declining. It was 65.4 percent just nine years ago.

Our unemployment rate is 4.0 percent, above the national average of 3.6 percent; the unemployment rate of people of color is almost double that of whites. In 44 of our 100 counties, mostly rural, inflation adjusted wages have fallen over the past decade. Our median household income is now $52,750, some $7,500 lower than the national average. Our four richest per-capital income counties are Orange, Wake, Mecklenburg and Dare, with the four poorest being Hyde, Robeson, Tyrrell and Scotland.

A few other tidbits: 21 percent of our children live in poverty and 12.6 percent of our citizens don’t have health insurance. The median value of an owner-occupied home is $161,000 (median payment $1,261 per month) and the average rent for non-homeowners is $844.

At 10.5 million people, we’ve increased almost 1 million since 2010, however our growth rate is slowing a bit. The Old North State now ranks 9th among the states in population and with our great resources, ideal climate and good location we should expect continued growth.

But, as we were reminded, this is a time to give great thanksgiving, especially for our wonderful family, neighbors and friends with whom we celebrated this July Fourth holiday.

Tom Campbell is former assistant state treasurer and is creator/host of “NC Spin,” a weekly statewide television discussion of NC issues that airs on UNC-TV. Contact him at www.ncspin.com.

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