Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity Newsletter

Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity Newsletter:
Monday, December 3, 2012

Center Happenings

We've moved!

As of October 12, 2012, the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, along with several other UNC Law departments, is located in Meadowmont at 323 W. Barbee Chapel Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27599. Our new office is just down the road from our colleagues at the law school. Please take note of our new phone number: 919.445.0196.

Annual Report

Please take this opportunity to review the Center's 2011-2012 Annual Report. The report includes information about recent changes at the Center, current research and events, our work with students, and more.

Recent Media

Director Gene Nichol recently appeared with Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II on UNC-TV's Black Issues Forum hosted by Deborah Holt Noel to discuss the Poverty Tour and continuing plans to advocate for poverty reduction as a central component of our policy agenda.

Director Nichol also had the chance to speak in Charlotte on a panel discussion, "Southern Politics and the 2012 Election," hosted by the Charlotte Observer on September 2, 2012. The panel boasted several prominent speakers regarding the November election. Gene's comments begin around 43 minutes into the video and focus on the role of poverty in the political landscape.

Center in the News

The missing anti-poverty campaign

News & Observer, November 1, 2012, op-ed by Gene Nichol

Three undisputable, but contradictory, facts lie at the vortex of American poverty.

First, this is the wealthiest nation on earth. Second, we countenance higher levels of poverty, especially child poverty, than any remotely comparable country. Third, Americans believe, with steely determination, this is the fairest society - the most committed to equality and "justice for all" - the world has ever known.

A facile and energetic mind can square much that collides. But not these three realities. It's impossible to be the richest, the poorest, and the fairest all at once. How do we manage it?

Broadly speaking, by both circumstance and design, we make the poor invisible to the wider majority.

Our kids are doing fine, and our friends' kids, and theirs. Sure, there may be poverty afoot, even deprivation so significant it challenges the aphorisms of equal opportunity and dignity we daily profess, but it's on the other side of the tracks, or the county, or the commonwealth. Since we don't confront it, we assume its nonexistence. We needn't address what we don't see. We can thus remain content and boastful in our hollow pledges and declarations.

Read the full article.

Race, Legacy, and Affirmative Action

Progressive Populist, October 15, 2012, op-ed by Gene Nichol

When the United States Supreme Court announced that it will review the Fisher case - challenging the affirmative action program at the University of Texas - it was, for the academy, unwelcome news. The Texas admissions scheme was adopted, with near precision, to mirror the Court's ruling in Grutter, handed down only nine years ago.

Given changes in high court membership, and the reality that justices have little inclination to simply correct errors of application, most have assumed racial affirmative action is now on the chopping block. Admissions officers across the land rightly warn of a potent resulting segregation. Racial transgression has been the largest sin of American life, from our first day to this. Merely announcing we're beyond it doesn't make it so.

But as one who has been around the affirmative action wars for years, I remain baffled by what the decades-long cascade of lawsuits doesn't challenge.

Over 90% of top American universities, and virtually all liberal arts colleges, employ pervasive and frequently outcome-determinative "legacy" preferences in admission. The children of alumni receive a decided and unembarrassed leg up in the famed battle for scarce entering slots.

Read the full article.

The South is tops in poverty

News & Observer, September 30, 2012, op-ed by Gene Nichol

The recent release of poverty figures by the Census Bureau, again, speaks volumes about the American South.

We are, as ever, the nation's poorest region. The South has the highest percentage of citizens living in poverty. Ten of the country's 12 poorest states are Southern. Though about 15 percent of Americans live in poverty, in Mississippi the figure is 23; Louisiana, 21.4; Arkansas, 19.5; Georgia, 19.1; South Carolina, 18.9; Texas, 18.5. The former Confederate states set the gold standard in American economic deprivation.

We share the indignity with our kids. In fact, we visit it upon them disproportionately. Of the 10 states with child poverty rates in excess of 25 percent, nine are from the South. Of the 11 states with over 10 percent of kids living in extreme poverty ($11,525 in income for a family of four), 10 are Southern. The Southern Education Foundation reports that of the 6 million children living in extreme poverty in the United States, a disproportionate 42 percent are our Southern neighbors.

Read the full article.

Student Research at the Center

Center intern Michael Shapiro completed research this summer on homelessness in North Carolina, looking at a variety of available data on homelessness including annual statewide point in time counts and national studies. Michael's report synthesizes available information to consider the demographics and better understand the challenges faced by the homeless community.

On January 25, 2012, 13,602 individuals in North Carolina were experiencing homelessness, including 3,312 children under 18. North Carolina ranked 36th in the 2010 Risk for Homelessness study based on a variety of factors including the poverty rate, household structure, state housing market, and generosity of benefits for low income children.

Resources

2012 North Carolina Child Health Report Card

Action for Children and the North Carolina Institute of Medicine recently released the 2012 North Carolina Child Health Report Card. The report utilizes a variety of measures to track the health and well being of children in the state of North Carolina.

While the state experienced improvement on some measures, for example, the total number of uninsured children decreased, some indicators worsened. Child poverty, an important factor in the overall assessment of child health, worsened in North Carolina. Further, the report notes that though the data is not profiled in most categories, racial and ethnic disparities do exist for many of the indicators. The county-level child health report cards offer additional data about racial and ethnic disparities among the health measures used.

Pulling Apart: A State by State Analysis of Income Trends

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute released Pulling Apart: A State by State Analysis of Income Trends in coordination with the Budget and Tax Center of the NC Justice Center. The report tracks the growing income inequality in our state among income brackets, including both low and high income households and middle and high income households. Between 1998-2000 and 2005-2007, available data shows that incomes for the top 5% in North Carolina grew by 8.8% while incomes for the bottom fifth dropped by 3.7%. Similarly, while the incomes of the top fifth of North Carolinians grew by 5.5% during this time period, the income of the middle fifth fell by 3.4%.

The report explores the reasons behind the increase in income inequality and how states can combat growing inequality. Among the reasons for income inequality is the decrease in hourly wages for low to middle income earners and the increase in hourly wages for income earners at the higher end of the scale. A compilation of state-specific data is also available.

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For more information about the Poverty Center or to reach a staff person, please contact poverty_center@unc.edu.