Women in state move ahead but remain behind

Women in North Carolina have made big social and economic strides but still lag in jobs, wages and wealth, and find it tough to pay for housing and child care, preliminary findings from a new report show.

Women of different racial and ethnic groups, and from different regions of the state, also face “stubborn disparities in opportunities and outcomes” that must be addressed to improve the health of the state’s communities, says The Status of Women in North Carolina, a preliminary report from the North Carolina Council for Women.

“Engagement in social and economic progress is essential to the ongoing success of North Carolina women, particularly those of different races and ethnic groups, as well as among women from various geographic regions of the state,” Beth Briggs, executive director of the Council for Women, says in a statement.

“By working together to address these challenges and disparities,” she says, “we will further enhance the well-being and vibrancy of our state.”


Fifty-nine percent of North Carolina women are in the workforce, up from 34 percent in 1950 and 43 percent in 1970, says the report, prepared by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Still, in comparison, 70 percent of men participate in the workforce.

And in 2010, in the wake of the recession, 12 percent of women and 12.7 percent of men in the state were unemployed, compared to 10 percent of women in the U.S. and 11.4 percent of men.

Education, wages

Women in North Carolina have higher levels of education than men, yet their wages trail those of men.

Thirty-three percent of women in the state hold an associates degree or some college education, compared to 28 percent of men, for example, while 27 percent of women have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 26 percent of men.

Yet in 2010, median annual earnings for women in the state who work full-time, year-round totaled $33,000, compared to $40,000 for men.

And women who have at least a college degree and work full-time, year-round earn more than $20,000 a year less than men with that level of education.

White women 2010 had median annual earnings of $35,400, the highest among all women, compared to $30,000 for Asian American women, $29,000 for black women and for American Indian women, and $24,000 for Hispanic women.

Median annual earnings between 2008 and 2010 for immigrant women in North Carolina who worked full-time, year-round totaled $25,900, compared to $27,000 for  immigrant men, $33,700 for native-born women, and $41,000 for native-born men.

Women also own 28 percent of all businesses in the state, compared to 29 percent in the U.S. overall, with North Carolina ranking 17th in the U.S. in 2007 in the share of businesses owned by women.

The median annual income for households headed by single mothers totals $20,393, the lowest among all family household types and just 29 percent of the income of married couple households with children.

Housing, child care

Housing is too expensive for many women and families in the state, and quality health care is prohibitively expensive for many families the report says.

Thirty-six percent of all households in North Carolina spend at least 30 percent of their monthly income on housing costs, a level the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says is unaffordable for most families.

And  average annual fees in the state for full-time care in a center are $9,185 for an infant and $7,774 for a four-year-old, compared to $5,685 in average annual tuition and fees for a public four-year college in the state.


In 2010, 17 percent of women and 13 percent of men age 18 and older in North Carolina were poor, compared to 15 percent of women and 12 percent of men in the U.S. overall, living with incomes at or below the federal poverty threshold.

Poverty rates for women age 18 and older in North Carolina vary across different geographic regions, including 13 percent in Raleigh, 14 percent in Charlotte, 15 percent in Asheville, 16 percent in Greensboro, 17 percent in Fayetteville, and 21 percent in Ashe, Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties combined.

Poverty status also varies by race and ethnicity, with 64 percent of Hispanic women who are poor or near poor, compared to 54 percent of American Indian women, 52 percent of black women, 35 percent of Asian American women, and 30 percent of white women.

in 2010, over 300,00 immigrant women were living in North Carolina, and 28 percent of them were poor, compared to 22 percent of immigrant men and 16 percent of native-born women in the state living at or below the federal poverty line.

Yet despite relatively poverty rates among women in some parts of North Carolina, very few women in the state receive cash assistance from the public program, Temporary Aid to Needy Families, the report says.

In 2010, 1.5 percent of women age 18 ad older in the state received benefits from that program.

Data show that women in the state “form a diverse group with varying needs and concerns,” the report says.

Continuing gaps

“The disparities they continue to experience, as well as their substantial progress, reveal the needed to promote policies and programs that will advance women’s status in the state and in the United States as a whole,” it says.

“Especially now, as the nation struggles to move  beyond an economic recession in which women experienced significant losses,” it says, “it is critical that women’s interests and concerns fully inform policymaking and service provision, as well as advocacy, research and program initiatives.”

The study was funded by the N.C.  Council for Women; Wells Fargo Foundation; Women for  Women at the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina; Women to Women Fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro; Women’s Giving Circle at the Cumberland County Foundation; Department of OB-GYN at Mountain Area Health and Education Center and Women’s Fund at the North Carolina Community Foundation.

Todd Cohen

3 responses

  1. This is a significant study that will be useful across the state to raise awareness of issues affecting our NC girls and women and to inform related decision making at many levels.

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