Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity Newsletter

Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity Newsletter: Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Center Happenings

Thank you to our departing summer 2013 student interns!

Our summer 2013 interns have finished their service for the summer and are back to school. We would like to take this opportunity to thank them all for their enthusiasm and resourcefulness in tackling a variety of research tasks as well as their tireless commitment to working for the public interest to elevate the cause of the poor across the state. From writing on the health policies impacting low-income women and the depth of pockets of urban poverty to undertaking a review of foreclosures in Durham County to interviewing low-income individuals who were receiving free dental services, you have all shown great capacity in your work on behalf of the Center and we appreciate your contribution.

UNC School of Law Mourns the Loss of Civil Rights Leader, Julius Chambers '62

Julius Chambers '62, civil rights leader, educator and founding director of the UNC Center for Civil Rights, died Friday, August 2, 2013. Read more about Chambers' long and successful career and lasting legacy.

On Wednesday, August 7, Director Nichol spoke with Frank Stasio on the State of Things on WUNC about the legacy of Julius Chambers. "There are a lot of ways of looking at Julius' legacy but one thing that North Carolina lawyers would say I think if they are honest to the person is that last Friday we lost North Carolina's most accomplished lawyer and the person who has been North Carolina's most accomplished lawyer for the last 50 years."

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 recent articles below.

The picked-on in Brunswick County's paradise

News & Observer, June 29, 2013

Brunswick County, N.C., is quite the place - at least for some of its residents. In the state's southeast corner, Brunswick is bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, the north by New Hanover County and the south by that other "Carolina." It is one of our largest counties, occupying much of the ground between Wilmington and Myrtle Beach. Almost 900 square miles. Think sand, sun and golf.

Many of its destinations are famed: Bald Head Island, Oak Island, Holden Beach, Ocean Isle, Sunset Beach, Caswell Beach, Southport.

At the entrance to the county from the north on N.C. 17, billboards proliferate. "Luxury gated communities" are the boasted fare. Tony residential developments sound antebellum themes: St. James Plantation, Winding River Plantation, River Sea Plantation, Mallory Creek Plantation. We get the point. It's handsome. As the real estate brochures proclaim, "Picture Perfect."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Brunswick is also booming. The Census Bureau just reported it is one of the 100 fastest-growing counties in the nation. Last year, Brunswick's population grew from 107,431 to 112,257. In the preceding decade, its population rose by 50 percent.

But not all have prospered.

As the county has blossomed, the poverty rate for African-Americans has risen from 22 percent to 29 percent. Blacks were almost 15 percent of the population in 2000. A decade later, they were 11 percent. Between 1990 and 2005, the county added almost 40,000 (net) new members, yet the number of black residents fell by more than 2,000.

Read the full article.

In a growing state, a growing hunger

News & Observer, July 27, 2013

It's important to sit down before reading about hunger in North Carolina. The federal government uses the odd term, "food insecurity," to measure hunger. It refers to "limited availability of adequate safe food" and the "uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods." For non-bureaucrats, it means during the past 12 months there have been significant periods in which your family couldn't get enough to eat. In the richest nation on earth, 50 million of us fall under that unhappy designation. Seventeen million kids.

In North Carolina, food insecurity is rapidly on the rise. In 2007, 12.6 percent of us were classified as hungry. Last year, it was 19.6 percent, or 1.9 million. Twenty-eight percent of our children, over 622,000, meet the federal standard. We have the tenth highest food insecurity rate in the United States. Feeding America has reported that, for children under 5, we're No. 2, trailing only Louisiana.

Read the full article.

Desperate for dental work, an all-night wait

News & Observer, August 25, 2013

At the end of July, the N.C. Dental Society's Missions of Mercy spearheaded a massive, two-day free clinic at the Crown Expo Center in Fayetteville. More than 200 dental professionals and nearly 500 other volunteers ensured that nearly 900 grateful souls received desperately needed extractions, fillings, dentures and cleanings - procedures that would have cost half a million dollars on the market. It was a smorgasbord of generosity, accompanied by a heaping helping of gratitude. I've never seen anything like it.

People started lining up outside the Expo Center at 10 a.m. on Thursday in anticipation of the Friday morning opening. By 6 p.m., hundreds were lodged in the long queue - armed with water, snacks, lawn chairs and sleeping bags - prepared to spend the night to get what, for them, was otherwise unavailable treatment.

Craig and Melissa from Raleigh got the coveted first spots. He had a damaged crown that was killing him. A food server, she was convinced that her broken front teeth hurt not only her gums but also her income. They'd camped out all night at a similar clinic in Wilmington six months earlier but hadn't been seen by closing time. They wouldn't make that mistake again.

"I'll wait 24 hours to stop the pain," Craig said. "What choice do I have?"

Read the full article.

Center in the News

Gene Nichol talking about poverty on WUNC's The State of Things

WUNC's The State of Things, June 4, 2013

Gene Nichol, Director of the Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said on The State of Things today that the financial collapse really hurt the poor but that the problem is multifaceted.

"When the economy hit the skids in 2008, poverty exploded in North Carolina," he said. "There are structural causes for it. There are public policy causes for it. There are individual causes for it."

Listen to the full segment. Nichol's remarks begin at 20:00.

Gene Nichol talking about poverty in Charlotte on WFAE's Charlotte Talks

WFAE's Charlotte Talks, July 10, 2013

North Carolina's General Assembly has addressed a number of hot-button issues this session - voter fraud, education reform, and overhauling the tax system. But there's one big issue not getting much attention, even though it affects more than 1.7 million people in our state. North Carolina's poverty rate has risen this decade from 26th to 12th in the nation. More than 1.7 million North Carolinians are living in poverty. And more than half a million are children. WFAE talks to Fannie Flono, Charlotte Observer editor, as well as the Reverend Mac Legerton, Executive Director for the Center for Community Action, and Gene Nichol, Director of the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, to try to figure out a way to combat this growing problem, when Charlotte Talks.

Listen to the full segment. Nichol's remarks begin at 2:25.

A Perfect Storm of Cuts Batter North Carolina's Unemployed

The Nation, August 16, 2013

....According to the most recent available USDA data, over 17 percent of North Carolina's families faced a low level of food security in 2011-placing the state's hunger rate at sixth highest in the nation.

Nonperishable protein items such as canned meats are in particularly short supply in Scotland County, according to Pastor Faye Coates, director of the Restoring Hope Center in Laurinburg. Pastor Coates, who oversees a network of twenty-four food distribution sites throughout county, says that her food pantries began seeing an increase in clients in the weeks before July 1. "It was like a pot brewing, you could feel the rumbling in the water telling something was coming," Pastor Coates said. "We had people coming in-just anticipating it-asking, 'What am I going to do?'"

"The stories about hunger in this state are stunning," says Gene Nichol, the director of the Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity at UNC School of Law, who has traveled the state extensively to research economic conditions. "You hear mothers tell of not eating so their children won't go hungry, you hear parents talk about having to pick which child will eat on which day. This is an emergency in our state, but it's talked about very little."

Read the full article.

Poor and Struggling in Charlotte

The Charlotte Observer, August 17, 2013

...In this city of bankers and others of affluence, 64,000 people live on an income that's roughly $11,500 a year for a family of four. That's considered extreme poverty. In all, more than 140,000 Mecklenburg County residents - 15.6 percent of the county's population - live in poverty.

Worse, a good chunk of the poor are children. Twenty-two percent of Mecklenburg's children live in poverty, and an astounding 40 percent of its children of color are poor.

The center's research says Charlotte area is one of five urban areas with "the most intense, deep poverty" in the state - Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro and Winston-Salem are the others. Today, two-thirds of the state's concentrated poverty Census tracts are in urban rather than rural areas, Nichol notes. Mecklenburg and Greensboro have the largest shares of that poverty. In 2000, Mecklenburg had 16 tracts of deep poverty. By 2010, that number had zoomed to 26.

Read the full article.

The March on Washington 50 Years Later

UNC-TV's Black Issues Forum, August 17, 2013

"[The March on Washington] was probably our largest moment at calling America to meet its promise, probably from our greatest spokesperson for American democracy, reminding us as a people that we have made promises to one another and to our posterity that we have failed to meet and still fail to meet."

Listen to the full segment. Nichol's remarks begin at 5:30.


The Impact of the Rejection of Medicaid Expansion in North Carolina

A recently released issue brief from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured analyzes the impact of state decisions on Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. North Carolina rejected the expansion earlier this year along with 20 other states. While 24 states are moving forward with expansion, 6 others are still debating their desired course of action. The report found that states who are pursuing expansion already have lower eligibility standards. The average eligibility standard for adults in these states is 113% of the federal poverty level while the average eligibility level for adults in states not moving forward is 48%. North Carolina's eligibility level for adults is 47%, less than half of the poverty level.

Decisions to reject expansion have a disproportionate impact on uninsured in the South and people of color. Nearly half (46%) of uninsured adults who would be eligible under the Medicaid expansion live in states like North Carolina that have rejected expansion. In the South, 8 of 10 uninsured adults who would be eligible live in states that are not moving forward with expansion. Decisions not to expand also impact people of color more heavily as nearly 60% of African Americans who would be eligible under the expansion live in states who have rejected expansion (compared to 44% of Whites, 44% of Hispanics, and 27% of Asians).

In North Carolina, the rejection of expansion means nearly 500,000 people in our state will not have access to healthcare via Medicaid.

How We Think About Poverty

How might we think about poverty differently if we understood that poverty itself impedes cognitive functioning? New findings published recently in Science magazine from a study undertaken by researchers at Harvard University and Princeton suggest that poverty itself impedes cognitive functions. In two separate experiments, researchers found that individuals who were struggling to get by performed poorly on cognition tests, at a loss of as much as 13 IQ points. Researchers remark that the difference cannot be explained by work effort, nutrition or stress but rather that "[p]reoccupations with pressing budgetary concerns leave fewer cognitive resources available to guide choice and action." The authors suggest particular policy implications of their findings. In addition to changing the way we think about poverty, that is the need to pay greater attention to the situational barriers faced by the poor instead of individual characteristics, the authors offer that by providing support to poor individuals to increase their financial stability, we "are not merely contributing to economic stability...[we] are actually enabling greater cognitive resources."

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