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Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity Homepage

In the Spotlight

BOG committee decision

On Feb. 18, a working group of the UNC Board of Governors recommended that the Poverty Center be "discontinued." The full board will vote on this recommendation at their Feb. 27 meeting in Charlotte.

Below is an incomplete list of documents and articles related to this decision.


The Poverty Center is funded entirely by private money. View sources of funding and expenditures.

Low wage work in North Carolina

Low wage jobs are growing in North Carolina. This has profound consequences for our neighbors, communities and state.

To explore the nature of low wage work and the challenges workers face, the Poverty Center is hosting a panel of employment scholars and worker advocates. The panel will be held on March 3 from 12 - 1:30 p.m. at the Pleasants Family Assembly Room in UNC-CH's Wilson Library.

As one of the main drivers of the state economy, it's important to understand low wage work. How many people does it affect? Who is most likely to be a low wage worker? What industries employ the largest number of low wage workers? To help answer these questions, the Center is excited to offer a new website on low wage work.

The website was researched and designed by master's students in the UNC Department of City and Regional Planning for the Poverty Center under the supervision of Professor T. William Lester. This highly interactive website provides a rich trove of information on low wage work.

The website's charts and maps can be filtered and shared, plus their data can be downloaded for further analysis. This site is a great tool for anyone interested in a closer look at one of the defining characteristics of our state (and national) economy.

NC urban poverty in the news

North Carolina has recently received national and regional attention for its surging poverty rates, especially in its cities.

  • According to the Brookings Institution, in the past decade, Greensboro, Charlotte and Winston-Salem had among the highest increases of population in high poverty neighborhoods in country (ranking third, sixth and seventh respectively). The same study found that Raleigh and Charlotte had the third and fourth highest increases in their poor populations (Winston-Salem was 11th, Greensboro 17th).
  • Raj Chetty at Harvard and colleagues at the National Bureau of Economic Research detailed how geographic place affects intergenerational economic mobility (PDF) - the chances of children climbing or sliding down the economic ladder compared to their parents. Chetty's research revealed that mobility is severely hindered in southern states. Of the 50 largest commuting zones in the US, Charlotte and Raleigh came in last and third to last. (The NY Times created an interactive map illustrating Chetty's findings.)
  • Another report by the UNC Center for Regional and Urban Studies found a similar increase in poverty and other measures of distress, particularly in North Carolina's urban areas.
  • Since the recession, North Carolina's hunger rates have surged. The US Department of Agriculture reports that the state has the fifth highest rate of food insecurity in the country. And Greensboro and Asheville are among the top 10 cities for food hardship (PDF).

These and similar stories and studies have been covered by the press, including pieces in Business Insider, the News and Record, and the Charlotte Observer. As a result, Charlotte is forming a poverty task force and Raleigh's mayor called for a series of poverty summits to be attended by the mayors of the state's largest cities.

The Poverty Center is delving deeply into urban poverty and will continue to cover and examine this critical issue.

"Seeing the Invisible" series available for Kindle

The entirety of our "Seeing the Invisible" series, which spotlighted different poverty-related issues in our state last year in the News and Observer, is now available for Kindle. It is a great way to re-read the series on the go or to give the gift of poverty awareness to someone else for under four dollars.

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