The Truth and Hope Bus Tour launched with a tour of northeastern North Carolina last week. An appropriate starting place to begin to put not just a face on poverty but to outline the community conditions that make poverty persist in certain geographies.
A report from the Budget and Tax Center released today provides data on the 10 counties in NC classified by the USDA measure as persistently poor. These communities have experienced high poverty rates (over 20 percent of their population lived in poverty) for three decades.
All of North Carolina’s persistent poor counties are in the eastern region of the state and the northern tip of the “Black Belt,” a crescent of economically distressed communities that stretches south to Louisiana. The lack of wealth, few employment opportunities and a crumbling opportunity structure in these communities makes it difficult to provide pathways to mobility. The result is poverty persists.
Importantly, there are successes to point to in these communities and beyond. When targeted policies, like additional funding for public education is available, the development of stronger institutions in these communities can lead to improved student educational attainment. When commitments to regional economic development, like with the Appalachian Regional Commission, have been implemented, there has been a reduction in the level of sustained poverty in a community.