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Center for Health Systems Research & Development

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Selected Socio-economic Characteristics of
Eastern North Carolina’s Population

The maps and tables accessible by this page's links describe selected socio-economic characteristics of Eastern North Carolina's population. Poverty and education are two of the most important variables when considering mortality and morbidity patterns. Rurality (described here as percent urban), measures the geographic effect of isolation, lack of infrastructure, and access to health care resources. The percent of non-married heads of household, especially female-headed households, is an important measure of social cohesion that correlates strongly with mortality patterns. Social capital and community investment is expressed here using per pupil expenditure and county tax data. These variables combine as important socio-economic determinants of health outcomes for the region.

Data for the economic and non-married heads of household maps are from US Census Bureau’s Summary File 3. The per pupil expenditure map data are from North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction via the North Carolina’s State Center for Health Statistics website. Data for the county tax maps are from the North Carolina State Data Center’s “Log into North Carolina” (LINC) website.

The Center for Health Services Research and Development periodically provides internships for interested East Carolina University geography majors. Jessica Caine and Marc Crawford, under the direction of James Wilson, created all of the maps found in this page's links during an internship for the spring of 2003.


 Urban, Educational Level, Income, and Poverty Characteristics

This set of maps provides a socio-economic context for the patterns of mortality found in Eastern North Carolina. Geographic patterns of socio-economic environments frequently correspond to geographic patterns in mortality. Comparing socio-economic maps with mortality maps is useful for developing hypotheses about the relationships between the two classes of phenomena. The variables in this map set include urban, educational attainment, median family income, and percent personal and family poverty.

Urban:Individuals are considered urban if they live in a Census Block (the smallest geographic unit) that is defined as part of an urban area or urban cluster. Eastern North Carolina contains county populations that are completely non-urban and completely urban. Like many of the counties in the western portion of the state, several northeastern non-urban counties are peripheral to the Piedmont Urban Crescent.

Education: In this map, educational attainment is the percentage of population over twenty-five years of age who have less than a 9th grade education. This map shows coastal counties as having the lowest percentage of those with less than a 9th grade education. This may be attributed to the presence of retirement communities, large military bases, and universities. The region’s interior possesses the highest percentages of lower educational attainment.

Median Family Income: This measure is the family income value that divides the number of a county’s families into two halves: half of families have an income below this value, half are above. Compared to the state and nation, Eastern North Carolina has the lowest median family income value. Within this region, New Hanover County has the highest median family income at $50,861, which contrasts starkly to Bertie County’s value of $30,186—a 68% difference.

Personal Poverty: Eastern North Carolina’s level of personal poverty (US Census Bureau definition) is higher than both the nation and the state. The core of poverty for the region and the state is found in the northeast of the region, with a smaller county cluster located in the southern half. Almost a quarter (23.9%) of Halifax County’s population is below the poverty level while Dare, a coastal county, has only 8% of its population below the poverty level.

Family Poverty: The map for the percentage families below the poverty level is similar to the personal poverty map, but with more geographical differentiation between the coast and the region’s interior. Halifax County has the highest percentage (19.4%) of families below the poverty level and Dare County the least (5.5%). Poverty, family or personal, is the single most distinguishing characteristic of Eastern North Carolina.

Non-Married Heads of Household with Children (NMHH)

The percentage of households with children that have an un-married household head is a measure of social cohesion and economic stress. These factors can also have an effect on health outcomes. Female NMHHs with children make up the bulk of all NMHHS. The geographic distribution of NMHHs with children is very similar to the pattern of poverty in the state. Statistically, they are correlated and the maps support this.

Non-Married Heads of Household with Children: For NMHHs with small children under the age of six , the highest percentage is found in Robeson County (5.9%) and the lowest in Hyde County (1.0%). The percentage of NMHHs with children less than 18 years is highest in Robeson County (25.5%) and the lowest in Dare County (10.5%).

Female Heads of Household with Children: The highest percentage of Female Heads of Household (FHH) with children under the age of six is found in Robeson County (4.6%) and the lowest in Hyde County (0.0%). For FHHs with children under the age of 18, Robeson and Edgecombe counties are the highest with 21.1% and Dare County is the lowest with 7.1%.

Local Tax

A geographic description of county property taxes (rates, revenues, and expenditures) offers a glimpse at the level of investment capacity in resources such as public education. Relative to the rest of the state, the counties of Eastern North Carolina have some of the highest property tax rates and expenditures per capita.

Property Tax Rates: This map shows the distribution of tax rates per $100.00 of assessed value of property. Eastern North Carolina possesses some of the highest rates with Scotland County in the lead with $1.10 in 2001. Carteret County has the lowest property tax rate of just $0.44 per $100.00 of assessed value.

Property Tax Revenues: The highest property tax revenues per capita are found in Eastern North Carolina’s coastal counties where tourist and retirement industries are located. The highest per capita value for revenue is found in Dare County at $803. The lowest is found in Robeson County with $222 per capita.

Tax Expenditure: Tax expenditure per capita is derived from not only property tax but from other sources such as local sales, luxury, vehicle, and occupancy taxes. This map shows the potential investment capacity in local infrastructure, including public education. Dare County has the highest per capita expenditure rate of $2,355 per capita while Hoke County has the lowest rate at $670.

Per Pupil Expenditure

Per pupil expenditure (1999-2000) measures the amount of dollars that are spent on each public school enrollee from three sources: Local (city or county), State, and Federal. Most of the state’s 100 counties have consolidated school districts. With the exception of four city districts in the east, most of the city school districts are found outside of the Eastern North Carolina region. The counties with the highest per pupil expenditure are most often those with small populations and smaller proportions of school-age children. Counties with the highest county levels of poverty are also counties that are less able to contribute local funding for education. These counties are more dependent on state and federal sources of funding.

Total Per Pupil Expenditure: The highest ranking total per pupil expenditure (PPE) in the state is Hyde County with $11,508. Harnett County has the lowest total PPE at $5,544 for the 1999-2000 school year.

Local Per Pupil Expenditure: For the region, Carteret County, a coastal county, contributes the most local dollars per pupil at $2,269. Robeson County spends the least ($563) per pupil—one of the lowest local expenditures, after Swain County, in the state.