In North Carolina and across the United States, women have made significant progress. Growing numbers of women are earning bachelor’s degrees, starting their own businesses, and gaining access to health insurance coverage. However, many women and girls remain in poverty with limited access to a quality education, affordable health care services, and other supports that would give them economic security.

The Status of Women in North Carolina: Poverty & Opportunity takes a closer look at four indicators necessary for women’s economic success: (1) access to health insurance coverage, (2) educational attainment, (3) business ownership, and (4) poverty rates. These indicators are combined to create a composite index, which ranks North Carolina against all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Key Findings

  • Since 2004, North Carolina’s D+ grade on the Poverty and Opportunity Index has largely remained unchanged. 

  • North Carolina ranks 44th in the nation for its share of women with health insurance (85.5 percent), falling below the national average of 88.7 percent.

  • There are significant disparities in the share of women with bachelor’s degree or higher across North Carolina. While more than three in five women in Orange County, North Carolina, have at least a bachelor’s degree, less than one in ten women in Hyde County have a bachelor’s degree. 

  • North Carolina is among the states with the largest share of women-owned businesses, ranking 10th in the nation overall. 

This report is the final installment in a four-part series of publications on women’s status in North Carolina commissioned by the North Carolina Council for Women and Youth Involvement. The first publication, Employment & Earnings, was released in 2018; the second, Health & Wellness, was released in 2019; and the third, Political Participation, was released in 2020. The report builds on the Institute for Women’s Policy Research’s Status of Women in the States initiative, which has sought to measure women’s economic, social, and political progress at the state and federal levels since 1996.