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The Daily Tar Heel

Despite high poverty rate, Orange County holds highest per capita income in the state


Orange County has the highest per capita income in North Carolina according to the 2017 State of the Community report put together by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce and the Triangle Community Foundation. 

The report, citing the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, has Orange County’s per capita income at $55,338. For the state of North Carolina, the per capita income is $40,759. Behind Orange County in rankings is Mecklenburg, Chatham and Wake County. 

According to the United States Census, only 28.4 percent of people 25 or older in North Carolina have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. But in Orange County, 56.6 percent of residents over 25 have a Bachelor’s degree or higher according to the report.

The percentages increase even more when one looks specifically at Carrboro and Chapel Hill. Sixty-eight percent of Carrboro’s residents over 25 have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and that number grows to 74 percent in Chapel Hill.  

Orange County has a higher cost of living composite index compared to Charlotte, Durham and Raleigh. 

Orange County Commissioner Renee Price said she believes the high per capita income rates have an impact on living in Orange County. 

“I think that because people have high incomes and they’re coming here, and they’re demanding high quality services such as good schools — and as you know, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools have an additional tax that increases the cost of living in those towns,” Price said.

Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich said many people come to Orange County — specifically Chapel Hill and Carrboro — for the school system, and they are willing to pay more money for their homes and in taxes for this service. 

“Let’s keep in mind though, even though we have the highest income level among North Carolina counties, we also have a very high rate of poverty, and the disparity is shocking,” Rich said.

The county has efforts to increase affordable housing and to encourage businesses to adopt a $15 per hour livable wage to permit people of all incomes to live in Orange County and take care of themselves and their families Price said.

“I think that having a high per capita income — just stating it that way hides the fact that we have people living in poverty both in the urban areas as well as the rural areas,” Price said.


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