MEDIA RELEASE: Concentrated poverty rate in North Carolina doubled from 2000 to 2006-2010

There are more than 100 areas of concentrated poverty – where census tracts have poverty rates of 40 percent or higher – across the state

RALEIGH (March 15, 2012) – The concentrated poverty rate in North Carolina more than doubled from 2000 to 2006-2010, according to a  report released this morning, with 100 areas of concentrated poverty across the state.

In 2006-2010, 143,445 North Carolinians who were poor lived in concentrated poverty, according to a new report by the Budget and Tax Center – a project of the NC Justice Center – with the state’s overall concentrated poverty rate standing at 10.2 percent. During this period, both the number of concentrated-poverty neighborhoods across the state nearly tripled and the number of individuals living in these neighborhoods who were poor more than tripled.

The report defines areas of concentrated poverty as census tracts with poverty rates of 40 percent or more, based on the federal poverty level. The 100 concentrated-poverty neighborhoods were located in 30 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, with the largest share in Guilford and Mecklenburg counties. Of the 100 neighborhoods, 63 were in urban counties and 37 were in rural counties.

The report finds that African-Americans and Latinos who were poor were more likely to live in concentrated poverty in 2006-2010 than their white counterparts, and 10.4 percent of North Carolina’s impoverished children lived in concentrated-poverty neighborhoods. Regardless of family income, children in these neighborhoods have less access to quality education opportunities and social networks that foster healthy development, the report said.

Place and well-being are deeply connected, said Alexandra Forter Sirota, director of BTC. The disadvantage of being poor and residing in a poor neighborhood creates a concept known as the “double burden.” Residents of concentrated-poverty neighborhoods face restricted access to jobs, education, and networks that can improve their financial situation, the report finds. Patterns of concentrated poverty are in-part rooted in government policies such as public-housing location decisions, interstate subsidies, and deterioration of local services.

“Living in areas of concentrated disadvantage while being poor can undermine one’s economic and health opportunities,” Sirota said. “It is important to focus on investments and policies that support the extension of opportunity to all communities in the state in order to build prosperous communities and a more prosperous North Carolina.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Alexandra Forter Sirota, Director, Budget & Tax Center, Alexandra@ncjustice.org, 919.861.1468; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, NC Justice Center, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (cell).