Every day, families living in poverty face tremendous barriers placed in front of them through no fault of their own. And every day, millions of North Carolinians exude grit and resiliency and navigate those barriers. That tenacity, however, comes at a steep cost. Research and experience has shown that living in persistent poverty can cause a toll on individuals. In many cases, poverty is not isolated to an individual or single household, but affects entire neighborhoods and communities. When families already struggling to make ends meet find themselves in communities of concentrated poverty, they face a “double burden.”
This “double burden” limits economic mobility and prosperity not just for those experiencing poverty, but for every community member, and ultimately, for the entire state.
Concentrated poverty did not happen naturally but was created out of policy choices — such as state-supported discriminatory housing markets, poorly executed public housing projects, interstate and highway projects made possible through eminent domain laws, and a lack of investment in public services — that have reinforced barriers.
North Carolinians living in concentrated poverty neighborhoods face unique barriers. Often, residents are physically isolated from important resources such as jobs, access to wealth, quality education, as well as access to valuable social networks. Additionally, there are often environmental and geographical barriers like elevated levels of air pollution and inferior public services. Researchers have found that when given the change to move into economically diverse neighborhoods, people are less likely to experience negative mental and physical health. Without intervention, many of these neighborhoods have faced cyclical patterns of neglect, both historically and into the present. The suburbanization of jobs, disinvestment of businesses, and general stigmatization have compounded the barriers to private investment and economic mobility of residents.