Percentage of working North Carolina residents aged 25-44 earning a living wage

Filter by Demographic Group:

Last updated: 2022

= Top southern state :

only available for totals, not available for all indicators

Percent of North Carolina 25-44-year-olds earning a living wage. A living wage is defined as earning a family income equivalent to 300% or more of the federal poverty line.

Slightly more than half—54%—of North Carolina’s mid-career adults (25-44) had a family income greater than 300% of the federal poverty line in 2022. In 2022, a single adult with no children living in North Carolina would need to earn an annual income of at least $35,012 to meet this threshold. In Virginia, the top-performing southern state, the proportion of 25-44 year olds earning a family-sustaining wage was 64%. In Texas and Georgia—two southern states with similar costs of living to North Carolina—the share of adults earning a family-sustaining wage in 2022 was comparable to our state: 55% in both Georgia and Texas. On average, Southern states have lower living wage values than other states while the poverty line is the same value everywhere in the United States. This means that 300% of the federal poverty line means something very different in North Carolina than it does in New York or California.

By 2030, the goal is to have 66% of 25-44-year-olds earning a family-sustaining wage (>300% of the federal poverty line).

A family-sustaining or “living wage” is defined by the MIT Living Wage Calculator as earning enough to cover necessary expenses—such as food, medical care, childcare, housing, and transportation—without having to rely on financial assistance from other sources.

An increase in the percent of North Carolina 25-44-year-olds earning a living wage may indicate:

  • An increase in the availability of high-quality jobs that pay family-sustaining wages.
  • That more individuals and their families have the economic resources they need to weather day-to-day struggles without relying on external supports.

Meeting the 2030 Goal

North Carolina needs 320,170 more 25-44-year-olds earning a family-sustaining wage to meet the statewide goal.

Bar chart showing % of NC 35-44-year-olds with family income greater than 300% of the federal poverty line, 2006-2022The share of North Carolina adults ages 25-44 earning a family-sustaining wage peaked in 2021 and 2022 at 54%. This proportion held steady around 50% until 2010 reaching a low point of 43% in 2012 and 2014. Since 2015 the proportion has steadily increased, reaching a high of 54% in 2021 and 2022.

By geography

Across North Carolina, there are significant differences in the likelihood of being in a family that earns a family-sustaining income. More than half of urban (61%) and suburban (51%) residents earn a family-sustaining wage compared to 46% of rural-metropolitan county residents and 40% of non-metropolitan rural county residents. These differences reflect both county-level differences in the cost of living and differences in the types of jobs available in these counties.

By sex

Men are more likely to have a family-sustaining wage (58%) than women (51%).

Bar chart showing % of NC adults ages 35 to 44 with family income greater than 300% of the federal poverty line, 2022, by geographic area, sex, demographic group, and overall NC state average.

By race/ethnicity

Among North Carolina’s Asian residents, more than seven in ten earn a family-sustaining wage (73%). This share is more than six in ten among White residents (62%). Just over half of Multiracial 25-44-year-olds earned a family-sustaining wage in 2022 (51%), higher than rates among Black (43%) and American Indian (39%) residents. Our state’s Hispanic residents were least likely to earn a family-sustaining wage: 33% earned family-sustaining wages in 2022.

Where does the data for family-sustaining wage come from?

A family-sustaining wage or living wage is the income needed for a family to cover minimum necessary expenses, such as food, childcare, healthcare, housing, and transportation, in a given area. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Living Wage Calculator provides data on the hourly living wages for states, metropolitan areas, and counties. The MIT Living Wage Calculator values have been adjusted to reflect family size, household composition, number of earners, and local cost of living. This model assumes that all working adults in the household are employed full time (2,080 hours per year) and does not account for non-essential purchases or savings and investments.

Family-sustaining wages in North Carolina range from $16.83 per hour for one working adult living alone to $42.45 per hour for one working adult supporting three children. When compared to poverty wages—the hourly wages associated with the poverty threshold set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—the living wage values for North Carolina are between 200% to 300% of the poverty wage, depending on family type. Across all family types, the average living wage rate is 240% of the poverty wage. Based on these calculations—and the suggestion from MIT that their wages be considered a “minimum subsistence wage”—we use 300% of the federal poverty line as the threshold for family-sustaining wage to ensure our calculations reflect a minimum living wage standard regardless of family structure.

Detailed data on family income is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). This annual survey of demographic, economic, and social characteristics has been collected for all households and group quarters populations since 2006. The Public Use Microdata Series (PUMS) contains anonymized person-level observations that enable custom tabulations of the data for the state and some counties. Data for all counties is available in the 5-Year ACS in Table B17024: Age by Ratio of Income to Poverty Level in the Past 12 Months.

How was the data calculated?

Carolina Demography calculated the family-sustaining wage rate using ACS PUMS data retrieved from IPUMS-USA. Individuals were identified as earning a family-sustaining wage if they had a family income at or above 300% of the federal poverty line.

The family-sustaining wage rate was calculated by dividing the estimated number of adults ages 25-44 with family incomes above 300% of the federal poverty line by the total number of adults ages 25-44 for whom the poverty status was determined.

Family Sustaining Wage Rate = # 25-44 with family incomes > 300% FPL / # 25 -44 for whom poverty status is determined

Who is included?

All residents of North Carolina ages 25-44 for whom the poverty rate can be calculated.

Who isn’t included?

The Census Bureau excludes certain groups from poverty calculations, such as residents of college dormitories or military barracks. Full details on the poverty universe are available here.

Certain types of group quarters facilities are not sampled in the ACS due to difficulties associated with data collection, such as domestic violence shelters, soup kitchens, and living quarters for victims of natural disasters. Full details on the ACS sample and methodology are available here.

The data used in the development of this indicator is derived from a survey and is subject to sampling and non-sampling error.

Who is working on this in NC?

Help improve this section

If you know of an organization that is working on this topic in NC, please let us know on the feedback form.

NC-focused, state-level dashboards

Name: NC Chamber Dashboard


About: The NC Chamber Dashboard informs dialogue and catalyzes action to address North Carolina’s economic development challenges and opportunities. It provides independent and objective data on leading indicators in four critical areas important for state and business competitiveness.

Name: NC Workforce Development Board Dashboard


About: This tool displays information on the services rendered, participants served, and outcomes achieved through the state’s Workforce Development Boards.

Name: NC Labor Supply/Demand Analyzer


About: Developed by the NC Department of Commerce, this tool tracks the tightness of the state’s labor market and view estimates of the number of jobseekers and job openings.

Name: NC Works Labor Market Indicator Dashboard


About: Find Labor Market Information Data such as occupation information, wage information, unemployment rates, advertised job posting statistics, demographic information, and more.


How does a family-living wage differ from the minimum wage?

From MIT Living Wage calculator: “The state minimum wage is the same for all individuals, regardless of how many dependents they may have.” In contrast, the living wage is the hourly rate “an individual in a household must earn to support his or herself and their family.”

How much money does it take to earn above 300% of the federal poverty line?

The federal poverty line (also known as the poverty threshold) varies by household size, age, and number of children. For example, a single adult under age 65 needed to earn about $45,700 in 2022 to earn three times the poverty line. A family of four, meanwhile, needed to earn about $89,000 to have a family income greater than 300% of the federal poverty line.


 Previous indicator

Next indicator  

Key Transition Points

North Carolina County Profiles

Click to view North Carolina County Educational Profiles

Alamance Alexander Alleghany Anson Ashe Avery Beaufort Bertie Bladen Brunswick Buncombe Burke Cabarrus Caldwell Camden Carteret Caswell Catawba Chatham Cherokee Chowan Clay Cleveland Columbus Craven Cumberland Currituck Dare Davidson Davie Duplin Durham Edgecombe Forsyth Franklin Gaston Gates Graham Granville Greene Guilford Halifax Harnett Haywood Henderson Hertford Hoke Hyde Iredell Jackson Johnston Jones Lee Lenoir Lincoln McDowell Macon Madison Martin Mecklenburg Mitchell Montgomery Moore Nash NewHanover Northampton Onslow Orange Pamlico Pasquotank Pender Perquimans Person Pitt Polk Randolph Richmond Robeson Rockingham Rowan Rutherford Sampson Scotland Stanly Stokes Surry Swain Transylvania Tyrrell Union Vance Wake Warren Washington Watauga Wayne Wilkes Wilson Yadkin Yancey

All County Attainment Profiles