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Facts matter in policymaking. A growing number of data tools are available to help inform policymakers and the public of local conditions and trends so that policies to respond can be data-driven and achieve better, efficient results.  The latest tool is the Opportunity Index released annually by the Opportunity Nation and Measure of America.  This interactive website provides state and county level data on economic, education and civic factors that inform us about the levels of opportunity for residents.

North Carolina ranks 35th in the nation in terms of its level of opportunity with a total score of 50.6 below the national average of 52.8.  The good news is that North Carolina’s score has improved since 2011 when the Opportunity Nation and Measure of America first released the index but this improvement, by 3.1 percentage points, was insufficient progress relative to other states to move our state up significantly in the rankings.  NC was ranked 36th in 2011.

A few indicators were clearly moving in the wrong direction for North Carolina over this period:  poverty increased from 16.3 percent to 18 percent, median household income declined by more than $2,000 and the number of 3- and 4- year olds in public or private preschool fell from 46.7 percent to 42.2 percent. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center, The State of Working North Carolina

The newly released State of Working North Carolina Chartbook reveals how several economic trends over the 2000s resulted in diminished opportunities for the state’s workers. Although the Chartbook does not review how workers are faring at the neighborhood level due to data limitations, it has been well-documented by the Budget and Tax Center that too many North Carolinians are concentrated in high-poverty neighborhoods where good education and job opportunities are severely limited. North Carolina needs policies that will strengthen the opportunity structure—especially in disadvantaged areas—in order to build a more inclusive economy that will support workers and the recovery.

As evidenced by high poverty rates and other economic indicators like joblessness and business vacancy rates, some neighborhoods are hurting more than others and the need to rebuild is clear. Disparities in economic opportunity at the neighborhood level have persisted during the decades-long transformation in the state’s economy and have grown since the Great Recession. Some neighborhoods’ economic hardships have been shaped by the isolation from good jobs and expanding industries, commercial disinvestment, and inequitable outcomes rooted in government policies.  Although the underlying causes of disadvantage may vary from community to community, the negative effects of living in an opportunity-deprived area are largely uniform, wide-ranging, and destructive. Read More