Map of NC counties that shows difference between annual median earnings and the Living Income Standard for a family with 1 adult and 1 child. The gap between worker earnings and the cost of living tends to be widest our for fastest growing metropolitan counties like Durham ($19,500), Buncombe ($18,000), Orange ($17,500), and Mecklenburg ($15,400), but the problem is not unique to these kinds of communities. Even in our most rural counties where the cost of living tends to be lower, median worker earnings are at least $5,000 a year short of what it takes to make ends meet.