By Rose Hoban,
Data visualization by Steve Tell

As Christmas nears, many children will be anticipating a visit from Santa. But despite drops in North Carolina’s unemployment rate and a slowly recovering economy, many of North Carolina’s children may have few gifts under the tree. According to statistics released by the U.S. Census last month, large numbers of North Carolina’s children continue to live in poverty.

‘There’s tons of brain research that shows that poverty can affect architecture of children’s brains,’ said Laila Bell, head of Action for Children North Carolina, an advocacy organization. “Poverty, it seems, impairs cognitive development, making it difficult for children to start school ready to learn.”

Bell said researchers think the stress of poverty can actually lead to physical changes, such as increased cortisol levels in children that affects young brains.

“Poverty is a risk factor that can stunt children’s long term outcomes, but there are also protective factors,”Bell said. “There are things we can do as a community and from a policy perspective that can help make sure that children ultimately become successful,” such as enhanced learning environments and preventative health care.

You can use this interactive map to see which North Carolina counties have the highest rates of child poverty and track each county’s child-poverty rate since the beginning of the economic downturn in 2008. Clicking on a county will also show the median income and the October (most recent) unemployment statistics for each county.

Data for this interactive map come from the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates provided by the U. S. Census each fall, and from monthly unemployment data from the N.C. Employment Security Commission.

Many low-income children do qualify for health insurance through the State Health Insurance Program (Health Choice) and Medicaid. North Carolina’s childhood uninsurance rate is only 9 percent, compared to 24 percent of North Carolinians 19-64 years old without health insurance, according to statistics gathered by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

To use the map, click on a county to see the poverty rate from 2008-12 of children who live in that county. The map will also show the most recent unemployment rate and county median income.

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