Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity Newsletter

Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity Newsletter: Monday, March 24, 2014


Inequality for All Screening and Panel

On Feb. 20, Gene Nichol participated in a post-screening discussion of the new documentary, Inequality for All. Inequality for All features Richard Reich, former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration and Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. Through an ingenious weaving of personal reminiscence and cogent economic analysis, Reich makes a powerful case that widening income inequality is deeply damaging but hardly inevitable.

Nichol was joined in the discussion by Francois Nielsen (UNC Sociology) and Allan Freyer (NC Justice Center and PhD student in Economic Development). This screening on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, one of a handful to take place in North Carolina, was sponsored by the Poverty Center, UNC Graduate and Professional Student Federation, UNC Department of Geography, UNC Roosevelt Institute, UNC Sociology Graduate Student Association, and the Campus Y.

Salisbury Virtual Town Hall

After Salisbury, NC found itself garnering national attention about its skyrocketing poverty rate, the Rowan Concerned Citizens hosted a “virtual town hall” to address poverty issues called the “Beyond Poverty Mashup.” The goal of the Mashup was to describe and address poverty in the Salisbury/Rowan community via an interactive platform. Poverty Center Research Fellow Joe Polich participated in the Mashup, providing statistical analysis of Salisbury and Rowan County and collaborating with the event’s hosts on potential avenues for action.

The Mashup was hosted via google hangouts and video of the entire event is still available on YouTube.

Community Partner Snapshot

Over the past several months, the Poverty Center has developed a partnership with the Community Empowerment Fund in downtown Chapel Hill and with Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Pittsboro office. The goals of the partnership are to learn more about the legal needs of homeless or near-homeless people in Chapel Hill and to provide them with enhanced access to Legal Aid’s services. The partnership focuses primarily on examining whether a community member could be helped by obtaining expunctions – a removal of a criminal conviction or charge from their criminal record. Expunctions can be a key way to improve a person’s ability to find employment.

When expunctions are not an option, Poverty Center staff and CEF Advocates help community members create resumes, write letters explaining the circumstances of their criminal records, and do practice interviews.

So far, about 15 CEF members and other community members have been paired with pro bono attorneys through referral to legal aid. Many others have obtained employment after working with Poverty Center Staff and CEF Advocates.

This summer, the Poverty Center hopes to involve summer research assistants and interns in the partnership.

Analysis and Commentary

Charlotte Task Force on Poverty and Economic Mobility

In January, the Mecklenburg County Commission Chairman Trevor Fuller announced the creation of a Chairman’s Task Force on Poverty and Economic Mobility. Chairman Fuller was moved to action by a Poverty Center study that documented rising poverty rates in Charlotte. The study, researched and written by law student Alison Templeton, showed a disturbing increase in the number of “distressed” census tracts in Mecklenburg County, as well as a significant rise in the poverty rates within those tracts.

N&O Poverty Series Wraps Up

Gene Nichol’s year-long series in the News & Observer on poverty in North Carolina, Seeing the Invisible, came to a close in December.

Final article: "From silence to savagery, pain for the poor intensifies"

News & Observer, Dec. 28, 2013

We face many challenges in North Carolina, but none approaches the scourge of wrenching poverty amid plenty. In one of the most vibrant and accomplished states, in the richest nation on earth, over 18 percent of us, some 1.7 million, are officially poor. And the standard is a daunting one. A family of four living in Charlotte, for example, on an annual income of $24,000 is not classified as impoverished – though one guesses that’s little consolation as they scratch to survive.

It’s worse still. Over 1 in 4 of our children is poor – 41 percent of our children of color. Think on that. Over 4 in 10 of our babies, our middle-schoolers, our teenagers of color are constrained by the intense challenges of poverty. And if you are born poor here rather than in another state, you’re more apt to stay that way.

Read the full article.

All of Nichol’s monthly columns from this series are available on the Poverty Center website. The series has inspired similar projects in other states, prompted local and regional media analysis and provoked much reader commentary and discussion.

Foreclosure Project

The Foreclosure Project is wrapping up its first round of reports looking at neighborhood level foreclosure in Durham. By reviewing files kept at the Durham County Clerk of Courts’ office, we collected data on individual residential foreclosure starts from Jan. and Feb. 2011. (Foreclosure starts occur when the lender initiates foreclosure proceedings on borrowers that have fallen behind in their monthly mortgage payments.)

This data was used to identify which census tracts saw an unusual amount of foreclosure activity—information that was then linked to Census Bureau data on income, racial composition, homeownership rates, housing value and other indicators. Additionally, we note which financial institutions were the most active lenders during this time, how many loans show signs of being subprime, and the economic impact of foreclosure on neighboring homes.

Foreclosure rate, Durham County

As the next stage of this project, we will complete a second round of data collection for Durham using 2012 foreclosure starts to see how trends may have changed in the intervening year.

Student Research at the Center

Meet Tim Henderson, our spring extern! Tim is a 3L from Asheville, NC. Prior to law school, he attended undergrad at the University of Virginia. When he isn't externing at the Poverty Center, he enjoys hanging out in Carrboro with his dog.

PC: Describe what you’re working on for the Poverty Center.

Tim: I'm working on a project researching North Carolina’s decision to reject a generous pile of free federal money via the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. A lot of that revolves around teaching myself the complex background behind how Medicaid works, analyzing the adverse impacts on the state of not expanding, and trying to find ways to tell that story and help the Poverty Center raise awareness of this important issue.

PC: Why did you choose to do your externship at the Poverty Center?

Tim: One of the reasons I first decided to come to UNC Law was because I was impressed with the school's mission of serving the people of the state. The Poverty Center is an institution that has been doing that for a while. I also enjoyed [Poverty Center director] Professor Nichol's Con Law class as a 1L and to help him out is a privilege.

PC: What have you liked/not liked about externing?

Tim: I do enjoy having the chance to independently dig down deep on a policy issue that some would say is a little dry--and it is--but is also fascinating and really important in the lives of everyday North Carolinians. I've always been proud of my home state as being the most reasonable drunk at the bar vis-a-vis our regional neighbors, and by working at the Poverty Center I can do a small part in getting our good name back.

That said, I don't enjoy the coffee machine. It never fills the cup enough.

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