N.C. Poverty Research Fund

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Scotland Neck, Halifax County


The purpose of the N.C. Poverty Research Fund is to explore, document and research the immense challenges of economic hardship in North Carolina. Through the generous donation of various North Carolina foundations, and engaged and committed citizens from across the state and nation, the fund hires undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students and faculty to probe the causes of and solutions to economic injustice in the Tar Heel state.

Poverty is North Carolina’s greatest challenge. In one of the most economically vibrant states of the richest nation on earth, one in six of us live in poverty. The rate is higher if you're a woman, a child, a person of color, a high-school drop-out, unemployed, disabled. Too many are being left out for too many reasons.

Take some time to peruse our projects and activities, which are intended to place the plight of low income North Carolinians at the center of our public conversations.


Goldsboro Report

We're excited to release the most recent of our series of portraits on economic distress in North Carolina. This report focuses on Goldsboro, a small city in the eastern part of the state. There, profound issues of isolation along racial--and increasingly, economic--lines affect Goldsboro's future prospects. Numerous committed civic leaders have started to come together to try to address these deep and persistent divisions.

Court Fines and Fees Report

In trial courts across North Carolina, poor defendants in criminal and traffic cases are charged fines and fees they can't afford. Fines and fees, which can quickly run up to hundreds of dollars, are often more than poor defendants can pay. Those who can't pay their risk ongoing debt and additional fees, having their driver’s licenses revoked and, incredibly, jail time.  often for offenses too minor to warrant incarceration in the first place.

Our new report, Court Fines and Fees: Criminalizing Poverty in North Carolina, uses defendants' stories, court observations and interviews with advocates, judges and public defenders to explore the ways fines and fees trap poor defendants in a cycle of debt and punishment. We examine how fines and fees raise troubling questions of constitutionality, cast doubt on the fairness of our courts and infringe on judicial independence. We scrutinize claims about the necessity and cost efficiency of fines and fees and look at the factors that drove their rise in the state. We conclude with simple, straightforward recommendations that can be easily adopted by the courts. 

Wilkes County Report

Wilkes County, nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is a singular place. Distinctly Appalachian, it is rural and sparsely populated. Its history of strong self-reliance, deep faith and entrepreneurial energy created proud, tightly-knit communities and good jobs throughout the 20th century. In the past two decades however, Wilkes' economy, heavily reliant on manufacturing and related industries, has been battered by globalization and recessions. Even as the economy begins to recover, Wilkes faces intimidating challenges: low wages, aging homes, a large share of residents with no education beyond high school, troubling rates of substance abuse, and physical and mental health concerns.

In Mountain Poverty and Resilience: Wilkes County, North Carolina, we detail hardship as well as determination and strength. Through data and interviews, the report draws a picture of a county at the crossroads: reckoning with current problems while charting a course into an uncertain future.

More about Wilkes County.

Other reports in our Economic Distress in North Carolina series:

Cover of Charlotte report
Economic Hardship, Racialized Concentrated Poverty, and the Challenges of Low-Wage Work: Charlotte, North Carolina
UNC School of Law | Van Hecke-Wettach Hall | 160 Ridge Road, CB #3380 | Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380 | 919.962.5106 | Accessibility

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