Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity Newsletter

Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity Newsletter: Monday, March 4, 2013

Center Happenings

New Staff

Please join the Center in welcoming our new Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Joe Polich. Joe graduated from UNC Law in May 2012 and also has his Master in Social Work from UNC. Joe's bio and contact information is available on our staff page.

Internship Openings

The Center will host several UNC law student interns this summer. More information about the internship and application process is available on our staff page.

Upcoming Events

War on Labor in the Legislature: A Conversation with National and State Labor Activists

Tuesday, March 5, 12:00 p.m. to 12:50 p.m., Classroom 5042, UNC School of Law

The UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity will host MaryBe McMillan, Secretary-Treasurer of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO, and Liz Shuler, National AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer, for a discussion of the legislature's war on labor in pushing for devastating cuts to unemployment benefits as well as other pressing labor issues.

Wage Theft in North Carolina

Tuesday, March 21, 12:00 p.m. to 12:50 p.m., Classroom 5046, UNC School of Law

Following the release of their research on wage theft in North Carolina, Professor Deborah Weissman and Sabine Schoenbach of the North Carolina Justice Center will discuss the character, depth and severity of this issue for North Carolina workers.

More information about our upcoming events, including speaker biographies, can be found on our events page.

Center Publications

This year, Director Gene Nichol will write a monthly column, Seeing the Invisible, about poverty in North Carolina to be published in the News & Observer on the last Sunday of each month.

We hope you will join us in this examination of the faces and issues of poverty in our state. See the first two articles below.

In NC, poverty pervades as we evade

News & Observer, January 27, 2013

We speak much for equality in the United States. Our first statement as a nation attests it's a "self-evident truth" that all are "created equal." Lincoln reminded, at Gettysburg, we were "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition" of equality. Our constitution is premised on "equal protection of the laws." Allegiance is pledged, continuously, to "liberty and justice for all." We talk a good game. The best. But what we do has little in common with what we say.

The statistics of American poverty are straightforward and astonishing. In the richest nation on earth, over 15 percent of us fall below the stingy federal poverty standard - $23,000 annually for a family of four. We have, this morning, more poor people in poverty, in raw numbers, than at any moment in our long history; more, on a percentage basis, than at any time in a quarter century.

Our poverty is skewed sharply by race. Almost 30 percent of African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans are poor. It is also skewed by age. The youngest among us, the most vulnerable, are the poorest. Twenty-two percent of American children live below the poverty line; 35 percent of our children of color.

Read the full article .

'What are we doing for the least of these?'

News & Observer, February 24, 2013

New Beginnings Emergency Shelter in Elizabeth City is nothing if not inconspicuous. A modest, two-story house on Herrington Road, it disappears into the ragged neighborhood. A small sign out front - "On The Solid Foundation" - hints at its purpose.

Only a few hundred yards from the massive Museum of the Albemarle and the merchants of Water Street, New Beginnings houses eight homeless men 365 days a year. It is the only men's shelter in Pasquotank County. With 200 homeless women and men occupying the streets and buildings in and around Elizabeth City, it swims against a potent tide.

Pastor Tony Rice founded New Beginnings. An imposing figure, Rice is a veteran of the 82nd Airborne and a former N.C. Department of Corrections officer. When he returned to Elizabeth City, he said he realized the real war was here.

Rice's first encounter with homelessness came when police told him someone was sleeping in cars at the small automobile dealership he owned. Rice refused to press charges, offering instead friendship and support to the "trespasser," Arthur Bonds. Learning that Bonds lived mainly in nearby abandoned buildings, Rice regularly took him food and clothing.

As winter took hold, Rice was unable to find Bonds for several days. Searching in earnest, he pushed at the door of a windowless room in a vacant building - hitting Bonds' legs, heavy and hard as a rock. His face had deteriorated. He'd been dead for days.

Read the full article . Watch the video produced for the story.

Research at the Center

Student Research

Currently, the Center is hosting extern Brandon A. Robinson, third-year law student at North Carolina Central School of Law. Brandon previously interned at the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law and also clerked at Martin & Van Hoy, LLP in Mocksville, North Carolina. Brandon received his Bachelor of Arts in European History and Philosophy and Master of Arts in American History from Western Carolina University. He is a seventh-generation native of Mocksville, North Carolina. Brandon is currently assisting the Center in research on the DREAM Act proposal and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and will assist Professor Gene Nichol on other topics related to his year-long Raleigh News & Observer series on poverty in North Carolina.

Mortgage Foreclosure Research

The Center has embarked on a new project to research issues of mortgage foreclosure and other financial consumer issues in collaboration with UNC Law's Consumer Financial Transactions Clinic. Research will support the Clinic's efforts to represent clients in foreclosure and other consumer financial issues and assess the patterns of foreclosure abuse occurring in North Carolina. The Center recently convened a meeting of several organizations who are also working on consumer financial issues.

Center in the News

Filling the cells

News & Observer, December 9, 2012, op-ed by Gene Nichol

The North Carolina Department of Correction reports a prison population of about 40,000. A startling 57 percent of inmates are African-American; though only 22 percent of our population is black. Thirty-five percent of our state prison population is white; though whites constitute over 72 percent of the populace. The size of our prison cohort has risen by more than 35 percent over the last 15 years.

The "most frequent crimes" resulting in incarceration are instances of "drug possession" (18 percent). Another 3 percent of offenders are categorized as having engaged in "drug trafficking." Assault, larceny, DWI and burglary yield about 10 percent apiece. Traffic violations, robbery, sexual assault and fraud round out the field, at more modest levels.

These North Carolina figures echo patterns seen across the nation in the past three decades.

Read the full article.

Commissioners Pledge to Tackle Poverty Countywide, February 4, 2013

With a county poverty rate higher than the state average- and growing- Orange County leaders are pledging a renewed focus on serving those in need.

Gene Nichol, director of UNC's Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity provided county commissioners with a call to action at last week's planning retreat.

"About 23,000 of our residents, 18.3 percent, live in poverty, higher than the statewide figure, and almost 21 percent of our kids, about 5,000 of them," said Nichol. "A dramatic 42 percent of African-Americans in Orange County and 41 percent of Latinos live in poverty, and 10 percent of Orange County residents overall live in deep poverty."

While he acknowledged that Chapel Hill's student population could possibly inflate the numbers of those making less than $23,000 a year, Nichol argued that the wider trend of growing income disparity should not be overlooked. He pointed out that racial wealth disparity is especially dramatic in Orange County.

"Most daunting, is the tremendous racial disparity in Orange County poverty numbers," said Nichol. "And whatever else, that's not produced by any distorting effects of UNC students. Thirteen percent of whites, 42 percent of blacks and 41 percent of Latinos in Orange County live in poverty. As bad as our statewide racial disparity figures are, Orange County is worse."

Read the full article.


Assets and Opportunity Scorecard: How North Carolina Ranks

The Assets and Opportunity Scorecard offers the most comprehensive look available at Americans' financial security today and their opportunities to create a more prosperous future. The Scorecard explores how well residents are faring in the 50 states and the District of Columbia and assesses state policies that are helping residents build and protect assets across five issue areas: Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, Housing & Homeownership, Health Care and Education.

North Carolina ranks 45 overall.

NC Justice Center brief on the Earned Income Tax Credit

Tazra Mitchell of the North Carolina Justice Center authored a brief on the impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit, "one of the state's most powerful anti-poverty tools at a time when North Carolina has the 13th highest poverty rate in the nation." The brief highlights the economic effect of the EITC, in short to lift individuals out of poverty and assist in their ability to meet their basic needs given the disproportionate share of income they pay towards taxes when compared to higher income individuals. The brief also provides county-level data on the number of individuals who received the EITC in tax year 2011 and the total value of the credit.

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