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  • WCHL Community Forum, Poverty: Hunger and Wages, Apr. 23, 2015
  • THE STATE OF THINGS, Nov. 2013
    Professor Nichol joined Legal Aid of North Carolina client, Ashley Quinones, and chair of Legal Aid's Board of Directors, Charles Holton, to discuss issues of access to the civil justice system.
  • THE STATE OF THINGS, Aug. 7, 2013
    Gene Nichol talks about the legacy of Julius Chambers, famed civil rights attorney.
  • WFAE, July 10, 2013
    Gene Nichol on Charlotte's NPR affiliate station, discussing poverty in North Carolina with Fannie Flono of the Charlotte Observer and Mac Legerton, executive director of the Center for Community Action.
  • THE STATE OF THINGS, June 4, 2013
    Gene Nichol discusses policy and poverty with Brian Balfour of the Civitas Institute and host, Frank Stasio.



Access to Justice

Poor defendants in criminal cases have a constitutional right to an attorney, but parties in civil cases do not. The alternatives for those who can’t afford the cost of hiring a lawyer are stark: face the legal system alone or abandon their legal claims. At stake might be one's home, unemployment or disability benefits, parental rights, necessary medical treatments, protection from domestic violence, or safeguards against predatory lending.

In conjunction with the North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission, we released a report on the economic benefits to North Carolina that result from furnishing civil legal services to low-income citizens. These services are provided through three organizations: Legal Aid of North Carolina, Legal Services of the Southern Piedmont, and Pisgah Legal Services.

Some key findings of the report:

  • Legal services attorneys obtained nearly $23 million of federal benefits for their clients in 2012
  • Clients of legal services attorneys won over $8.5 million of housing-related awards in 2012
  • Legal services provided nearly $17 million in cost-savings through eviction prevention, foreclosure prevention, and domestic violence advocacy in 2012
  • The total economic impact of legal aid services in 2012 was $48,775,276, or a 108% return on the money invested into these services.
Read the entire report (PDF) or the executive summary (PDF).

Related articles and editorials by Gene Nichol:

Racial Disparities in Wealth in North Carolina

Racial Wealth Disparity in North Carolina (PDF) highlights the assets divide between whites and African Americans, and men and women, in the state. Wealth is used less often than income as a measure of economic self-sufficiency, but it is arguably more important. It provides a buffer during times of financial strain, a path to opportunity, a cushion for retirement and a boost for the next generation.

Tracing the Causes of Racial Wealth Disparity (PDF) is the second report in this series. Issued in spring of 2011, it looks at the reasons underlying the gap in wealth accumulation between blacks and whites.

Documenting Poverty, Economic Distress and Challenge in NC

In 2009, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation revisited its community economic development goals and funding strategies. As part of its evaluation, the foundation commissioned Documenting Poverty, Economic Distress and Challenge in North Carolina (PDF), which was presented to the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation board in January 2010.

News & Observer Series: Seeing the Invisible

Seeing the Invisible is a yearlong series of monthly articles in the News & Observer examining the faces and issues behind the rising poverty numbers in North Carolina. Please join us in exploring stories of poverty in our state.

Inspired by the News & Observer series, Professors Luisa Deprez and Sandy Butler have launched a similar effort in Maine. Read their series in the Bangor Daily News.

You can purchase the entire "Seeing the Invisible" series for Kindle for less on

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