Income Insufficiency

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Income insufficiency, a measure of financial hardship designed to be more accurate than Census poverty rates, compares family income to estimated family expenses. Although Census poverty rates provide the most complete information available at the local level, they have not been adjusted to account for certain important changes over time; as a result, they may underestimate expenses and the actual financial hardship experienced by families (1). For example, Census poverty rates were created based on the assumption that food expenses make up about a third of total expenses; however, in the five decades since they were created, food has become less expensive while other expenses have risen(1). For details on how expenses are estimated, click here.
Data 101
Data Glossary
About this Study
Executive Summary
Key Findings

Core Concepts

This section compares family income to expense estimates to calculate income insufficiency rates, which may be a more accurate measure of financial hardship than poverty rates. 
  • Overall, 44% of residents in Forsyth County are unable to meet estimated expenses.  This is roughly twice the poverty rate, suggesting that poverty rates may underestimate actual financial hardship in Forsyth County. 
  • Forsyth County has a similar income insufficiency rate to most peer communities. 
  • About half of children live in families that are unable to meet estimated expenses.  
  • An estimated 77% of Hispanic/Latino residents and 60% of African American residents are unable to meet estimated expenses.

Overview of Income Insufficiency

This section examines rates of financial hardship identified through expense estimates. These rates are consistently higher than poverty rates.
Figure 1: Income Insufficiency Rates by Location, 2014
Figure 1 shows that about 44% of residents in Forsyth County cannot meet estimated expenses.  
  • The rate of income insufficiency in Forsyth County is roughly double the poverty rate.
  • Rates of income insufficiency in Forsyth County are not significantly different than those of most peer communities.
  • Separate analysis of expense estimates for the family types examined in the expense estimate page revealed that no peer community consistently has a higher or lower cost of living compared to Forsyth County. 
Bars of a lighter color indicate no statistical difference compared to Forsyth County.
There was no data available for Roanoke (munc.); it was omitted from this visualization.

Income Insufficiency by Demographic

This section identifies financial burden among various demographic groups using income insufficiency rates.

Figure 2: Income Insufficiency Rate by Age, 2014
Figure 2 demonstrates that half of children live in families that cannot cover estimated expenses.
  • Roughly four in five residents between 18 and 24 cannot cover their estimated expenses and are more likely to be unable to cover estimated expenses than any other age group.  
  • The particularly high income insufficiency rate for residents between 18 and 24 may be, in part, because this age group is more likely to be in single-person families than other age groups.  Expense estimates assume that single-person families live in their own 1-bedroom apartment, and actual expenses may be lower for anyone who shares housing expenses. 

Figure 3: Income Insufficiency Rate by Race/Ethnicity, 2014
Figure 3 indicates that roughly 75% of Hispanic/Latino residents and 60% of African American residents are unable to meet estimated expenses. 
  • White, non-Hispanic residents have the lowest income insufficiency rates, followed by African American and then Hispanic/Latino residents.  This matches patterns found in poverty rates. 
  • For each race/ethnicity, the income insufficiency rate is at least 20% higher than the poverty rate. 

Christopher Webb, MPP
Christopher is a Data and Research Analyst with Forsyth Futures.  He performs statistical analysis and programming to support work on community issues in Forsyth County. 
He holds Master's in Public Policy from American University, and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Business.
If you have questions or comments about the data presented in this section, please contact Christopher at or by phone at 336.701.1700 ext. 108.


Literature References

(1). National Research Council (1995). Measuring poverty: A new approach. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from:

Tabular References

Figures 1-3:  U.S. Department of Commerce. (2015). 2014 1-year public use microdata samples (PUMS) [Data Files]. Retrieved from: