CHARLOTTE, N.C., April 6, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Economic mobility in every region of North Carolina ranks well below the national average, according to a new report, and unless communities create better opportunities, the limited chances of success for a growing portion of the population could jeopardize the state's economic future.
Building on recent national economic mobility studies, the North Carolina analysis also found promising initiatives across the state to strengthen the education-to-career continuum and prepare more people for occupations that command family-supporting wages. The report includes a roadmap communities can follow to create better opportunities, particularly for low-income, first-generation and minority students.
"This study advances national research that has drawn attention to troubling economic and educational realities in North Carolina," said David Dodson, president of MDC, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center in Durham that conducted the study. "While the report identifies serious challenges for the state's long-term economic health, it also found communities building an infrastructure of opportunity that moves people toward better paying occupations and can be replicated statewide."
The report, "North Carolina's Economic Imperative: Building an Infrastructure of Opportunity," was commissioned by the Charlotte-based John M. Belk Endowment to illuminate strengths and weaknesses in the education-to-career continuum and promote systemic change through collaboration among government, businesses and communities.
"A growing number of North Carolinians do not have the education and skills they need to perform jobs that can support a family," said Kristy Teskey, executive director of the John M. Belk Endowment. "The most important takeaway is that family-sustaining jobs require more than a high school diploma, so we must do everything we can to help more people attain postsecondary credentials and degrees that align with workforce needs."
The study examines education, income and workforce data, and profiles innovative efforts to boost mobility in eight communities across the state. It documents the link between education and economic success: While 31 percent of North Carolinians who attain only a high school degree live in poverty, just 5 percent of people with a bachelor's degree are in poverty.
Among other findings:
- Upward mobility in 22 of North Carolina's 24 regions called "commuting zones" ranks within the bottom quarter nationally – and Charlotte, Raleigh, Fayetteville and Greensboro rank in the bottom 10 of the nation's 100 largest commuting zones.
- While mobility varies depending on where people live, only about one-third of children born into North Carolina families making less than $25,000 annually manage to climb into middle and upper income levels as adults.
- Latinos and African Americans are more likely than whites to be in poverty and attain lower levels of education, leaving them less prepared for high-skill, well-paying jobs – and those disparities will increasingly affect North Carolina's economy as these populations grow to make up a larger proportion of the population.
- A family of one parent and one child needs an income of $21 an hour to cover basic living expenses in North Carolina, yet only 26 percent of full-time jobs pay median earnings of that amount.
Upward mobility is poor in both rural and urban areas of North Carolina, particularly in areas with high levels of income inequality and segregated housing, low performing K-12 schools, and low levels of postsecondary education.
"One key piece of the solution is that corporations and businesses need to play a bigger role in working with educators, government and community organizations to ensure we are developing the talent our advanced economy needs and guiding students toward better paying jobs that are in demand and can elevate their quality of life," said Dodson.
In coming months, MDC and the John M. Belk Endowment will engage communities in conversations about how they can create infrastructures of opportunity, and also will lend support to efforts that better connect education and workforce to prepare more people for family-sustaining work.
To download a copy of the report, go to North Carolina's Economic Imperative: Building an Infrastructure of Opportunity.
MDC is a Durham, N.C.-based nonprofit that has published State of the South reports for 20 years and whose mission is to help communities, organizations, and leaders close the gaps that separate people from opportunity. Founded in 1967 to help North Carolina make the transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy and from a segregated to an integrated workforce, MDC now brings together foundations, nonprofits, and leaders from government, business and the grassroots to build equity in the South through courageous conversations and systemic community solutions.
About John M. Belk Endowment
The John M. Belk Endowment is a private family foundation committed to creating a stronger North Carolina by improving access to postsecondary education for all students, increasing the number of students who complete postsecondary degrees and credentials, and ensuring that graduates can secure lifelong, family-sustaining employment. Founded in 1995 by John M. Belk and headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Endowment funds and partners with organizations that are leading the way for systemic change to better align education with workforce needs in a global economy through collaboration with educators, policymakers, employers and communities. For more information, please visit www.jmbendowment.org.
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SOURCE John M. Belk Endowment