Status of Women in NC: Poverty & Opportunity Report

Poverty & Opportunity Fact Sheet

Many women in North Carolina have made great strides toward economic equality, with more women earning bachelor’s degrees and almost two in five businesses owned by women. However, not all women have equal access to these opportunities. There are significant racial and ethnic disparities, as well as geographical variations, in rates of health insurance coverage, educational attainment, and poverty, and single mothers with children disproportionately live in poverty. Overall, North Carolina ranks 28th in the United States on the Poverty and Opportunity Composite Index, earning a grade of “D+.” The Status of Women in North Carolina: Poverty & Opportunity is the fourth and final in a series of publications that provide data and policy recommendations to improve North Carolina women's status in several key areas.

Key Findings

  • North Carolina’s overall grade on the Poverty and Opportunity Composite Index is a D+, with the state ranking 28th out of 51.
  • North Carolina ranks 44th in the nation for the share of women aged 18 to 64 with health insurance. There are large racial and ethnic disparities, with 9 in 10 white and Asian/Pacific Islander women having insurance and only 6 in 10 Hispanic women. There are also significant geographic variations.
  • There are significant differences in educational attainment among North Carolina women by race, ethnicity, and geography. While 54.2% of North Carolina’s Asian/Pacific Islander women have a bachelor’s degree or higher, only 17% of Native American women have a comparable degree.
  • NC is among the states with the largest share of women-owned businesses, ranking 10th in the nation. However, while almost 2 in 5 businesses in the state are owned by women, 91% of those businesses are sole proprietorships that tend to have lower sales, receipts, and revenue.
  • Poverty, especially among women of color, remains a persistent problem in the state. NC ranks 38th in the country for the percentage of women living in poverty (13.6%), but that rate ranges from a high of more than 20% of Hispanic, Native American, and Black women to a low of 10.8% of white women.
  • Households headed by single mothers are more than 5 times as likely to live in poverty than households headed by married couples with children (38.1% compared to 6.5%).
  • If NC women were paid at rates comparable to men, the poverty rate among working women would fall by 38.2% (from 10.6% to 6.5%).


  • Expand Medicaid and access to affordable health care.
  • Build and invest in the care economy.
  • Mandate paid family and medical leave.
  • Increase the minimum wage and tackle the gender wage gap.
  • Address disparities in educational attainment.
  • Expand support for women-owned businesses.