How pandemic-era investments changed the landscape for children and families in NC and Beaufort County

Published 12:22 pm Wednesday, October 11, 2023

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Submitted By NC Child

This week, NC Child, a statewide child advocacy organization, released its annual County Data Cards which provide insight into how children and families are faring when it comes to issues including maternal and infant health, educational attainment, economic security, safety, and health and wellness. The data comes from 2021 and 2022, the most recent made available by public agencies, and is broken down by NC Child by county and demographics.

Statewide, the data shows that median household income in North Carolina increased by almost $4,000 between 2020 and 2021, rising to $60,516, and that the number of children living in food insecure homes dropped by almost 3 percentage points during that same period, down to 15.4 percent. There was also a small decline in the percentage of children living in poor or low-income homes. Those trends were also reflected in counties across the state.

“We don’t have to accept child poverty as a given, and this data tells us that the policies and investments our legislators enacted during the worst of the pandemic succeeded in stabilizing families,” said NC Child Executive Director Erica Palmer Smith. “As certain federal programs like the expanded Child Tax Credit have expired, we must ensure that there are other policy measures in place at the state level that ensure we can prevent child poverty rates from creeping back up.”

Other statistics worth noting include a slight reduction in the percentage of high school students graduating on time, and modest gains in the percentage of 3rd grade students reading at grade level and the percentage of residents with bachelor’s degrees or higher. “We attribute the small dip in the percentage of graduation rates to the transitions around in-person and online schooling,” said Smith. “But it’s encouraging that the snapshot of data from this moment in the pandemic showed that we still made progress on childhood literacy and educational attainment, both of which have cascading effects as our population ages.”

Statewide the data also points to modest improvements in maternal and infant health: 73.8 percent of women receiving prenatal care, which is a slight increase from the prior data year’s 73.1 percent. The rates of uninsured children also improved slightly from 5.3 percent to 5 percent. Other key metrics, such as the percentages of babies born pre-term or at a low birthrate remain unchanged.

“We all know that the pandemic brought a lot of challenges, but this data tells us that we made meaningful investments into our state’s children and families and that our efforts had a tangible impact,” said Smith. “It’s important that we continue to advocate for policies that help hold on to the ground we gained and make strides in areas like infant and maternal health.” Smith also says that NC Child expects to see additional increases in these key child health and wellbeing metrics once the state’s decision to expand Medicaid is implemented.

In Beaufort County, the indicators often matched trends seen at the state level. This included a decline in the number of children living in poor or low-income homes, from 50.9 to 49.2 percent, a decline in the number of children in households that are food insecure, down from 23.5 to 19.9 percent, an increase in median income from $48,051 to $51,894, a decrease in the number of babies born at a low birthweight form 13.1 to 10.7 and of babies born pre-term, down from 12.9 to 12 percent.

The county data also indicated some challenges when it came to other issues. The delinquency rate per 1,000 youth ages 6-15 increased from 22.3 to 42.3 percent, the number of children assessed for abuse or neglect per 1,000 increased from 63.9 to 68.1. The number of 3rd grade students scoring proficient in reading declined from 47.9 to 45 percent, and the number of high school students graduating on time decreased from 86.4 to 81.5 percent.

NC Child annually publishes these data cards for all 100 North Carolina counties. The 2023 County Data Cards are available on NC Child’s website, both as downloadable documents and as an interactive tool, at

“It’s mission critical for us to ensure that thought leaders, policy makers, and parents all have access to information that affects the futures of our state’s children,” said Smith. “We all know that the pandemic brought a lot of challenges, but this data tells us that we made meaningful investments into our state’s children and families and that our efforts had a meaningful impact. At the end of the day these statistics are someone’s life story and with the right public policy choices we can make children’s lives better.”

About NC Child

NC Child is a nonprofit organization that advances public policies to ensure that every child in North Carolina has the opportunity to thrive, whatever their race, ethnicity, or place of birth. For more information, visit