Statewide Study Shows Dramatic Differences in Life Expectancy Rate

BabyNORTH CAROLINA-  A study on life expectancy exhibits a remarkable difference between some North Carolina counties.  NC Child released county by county data cards to denote the varying life expectancies and contributing factors for each area.  The study was done in a partnership with the NC Institute of Medicine, which monitors the health and safety of children in the state.

The study says children in Orange County have the longest  life expectancy in the state.  In New Hanover County, children will live 2.1 fewer years.

“Across indicators we see that a distance of fewer than 100 miles can mean the difference between positive or negative outcomes in children’s lives, a fact that simply cannot be explained by random chance or genetic predisposition,” said Laila A. Bell, director of research and data at NC Child. “These geographic disparities are a stark reminder of the profound impact the environments where our children live, play and go to school have on their long-term health opportunities.”

According to the data:

  • One in 15 births  in N.C. (6.6 percent) is to a mother who received very late or no prenatal care. Women who are uninsured at the time of conception may encounter administrative delays for Medicaid that prevent them from accessing prenatal care during the most critical period of their babies’ development.
  • One in 4 children (24.9 percent) in N.C.  lives in poverty. Research shows children who are raised in poverty have poorer health outcomes and are more likely to suffer from acute and chronic health problems as they age.
  • 595,240 children (6.1 percent)  in N.C. are estimated to be food insecure, living in households that struggle to provide enough healthy, nutritious food for all members of the family.
  • One in 11 babies (8.8 percent)  in N.C. is born at a low birth weight putting children at greater risk for developmental delays or future health complications including infant mortality.

To view data cards by county click here.

Could we see the East-West political divide return in NC?

Since colonial times, the overarching political dynamic in North Carolina was split between East and West.

Wealthy land owners down East held greater political power than the poorer Backcountry farmers in the West. This dynamic played out in just about every major decision in North Carolina history — from the founding of Raleigh as the state’s capital city, to seceding from the Union as the last state to do so.

In the 20th Century, transportation funding became the fault line on the East-West divide. If you lived west of Raleigh, the common refrain was, “They are paving shoulders on shoulders down East, while we can’t get our potholes filled.”

That dynamic has changed, however, in the 21st Century, to an rural-urban divide. North Carolina’s population is growing faster than the national average, and they are relocating to urban areas. Wake and Mecklenburg counties are growing by leaps and bounds, while 50 out of the 100 counties lost population in 2013.

This has created a political dynamic in state government where rural areas are trying to protect themselves, while cities are promoting pro-growth agendas. And with a Republican majority in both houses and a Republican governor, this also creates fault lines within the Republican Party between more conservative legislators from rural areas, and more business-oriented legislators from urban areas.

But we may see the East-West dynamic make a return in the 2016 election — and it will be due to population changes.

In POLITICO Magazine, William Frey of the Brookings Institution offered 10 maps to show how the 2016 election could shape up — and a glimpse into how North Carolina politics could be affected.

In two maps, Frey shows how minority populations — specifically African-American and Latino — populations are growing in Southern states, including North Carolina and Georgia.

Growth in the Latino population (seen here) mirror overall population increases in North Carolina’s most populous counties (seen here).

Growth in African-American population shows a reverse migration from the North back down South, Frey says. Looking at his map (seen here), it shows African-Americans are settling in the state’s urban areas, but also in the rural areas in the eastern part of the state. It also shows growth in two or more minority populations in southeastern counties, along the South Carolina border.

If you look closely, the East-West divide appears — in the form of rising minority populations in eastern and urban parts of the state, while minority populations in the western and rural parts of the state stagnate.

If these trends hold into 2016 and 2020, we could see the historic East-West political dynamic re-emerge.

The Republican Party in North Carolina, historically, has been centered in the western part of the state, while the Democratic Party drew its power from down East. The Republican governors in the last 100 years — Jim Holshouser (Boone), Jim Martin (Davidson), and now Pat McCrory (Charlotte) — are from the West, while Democratic governors were from down East — Jim Hunt (Wilson), Mike Easley (Southport), and Bev Perdue (New Bern).

Democrats could again see their power base grow in the urban and suburban East, bolstered by growing minority populations, while Republicans maintain control in western rural areas. But even that is not assured. The fastest-growing voting bloc in the state is unaffiliated from the political parties, and they vote based on the candidate and issues, rather than party loyalty.

If we see the East-West political dynamic re-emerge, it will be on top of the rural-urban dynamic — making for even more political complications, especially in redistricting.

– Ben McNeely


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