Since 2007, North Carolina has used a three-level system for designating county development tiers. The designations, which are mandated by state law, determine a variety of state funding opportunities to assist in economic development. This report documents the process for calculating tiers and lists counties that have changed tiers since 2020. A statewide county tier map and tier calculations are included for reference.
How Tier Rankings Are Calculated
The Development Tier Designation statute (§143B-437.08) provides specific guidelines for calculating annual tier rankings. This process assigns each county to a designation of Tier One (most distressed), Tier Two, or Tier Three (least distressed). Assuming no ties in rankings, the statute requires 40 Tier One, 40 Tier Two, and 20 Tier Three counties each year. In the event of a tie for the final position as a Tier One or Tier Two county, both counties will be placed in the lower tier. In the 2021 edition of the Development Tiers, a tie for the 40th position in Tier One means there will be 41 Tier One counties, 39 Tier Two counties, and 20 Tier Three counties.
Tier Rankings use Four Factors
- • Average unemployment rate for the most recent twelve months for which data are available (October 2019 – September 2020, NC Dept. of Commerce, LAUS)
- • Median household income for the most recent twelve months for which data are available (2018, U.S. Census, Small Area Income & Poverty Estimates)
- • Percentage growth in population for the most recent 36 months for which data are available (July 2016 – July 2019, NC Office of State Budget & Management)
- • Adjusted property tax base per capita for the most recent taxable year (FY 2020-21, NC Dept. of Public Instruction)
Download the full 2021 North Carolina Development Tier Designations here.