N.C. Poverty Research Fund

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Scotland Neck, Halifax County


Poverty is North Carolina’s greatest challenge. In one of the most economically vibrant states of the richest nation on earth, poverty is as common as it is ignored. And you're more likely to be poor if you're a woman, a child, a person of color, a high-school drop-out, unemployed, disabled. Too many are being left out, to the detriment of all.

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 generous foundation and private support, 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.


Welcome summer research assistants! Our talented group of law students will work on our poverty portraits, the criminalization of poverty, environmental issues, consumer matters and more. We're delighted to have them join us this summer!

Goldsboro Report

Our most recent report on economic distress in North Carolina focuses on Goldsboro, a small city in the eastern part of the state. There, profound issues of isolation along racial and 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. Unable to come up with the means to pay off this debt, poor defendants face additional penalties, including new fees, extended probation, license revocation and, incredibly, jail time--often for offenses too minor to warrant incarceration in the first place.

Our 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 vicious 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 rural, sparsely populated and distinctly Appalachian. 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, many 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
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