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Report: Two-Thirds Of Poor NC Kids Aren't Reaching Middle Class

A picture of a wallet with cash in it.
401(k) 2013
North Carolina children born poor are unlikely to climb into middle class.

North Carolinians are having more trouble attaining the American Dream, according to a new report from Durham-based research center MDCand the John M. Belk Endowment.
The report is called "North Carolina’s Economic Imperative: Building an Infrastructure of Opportunity." It says most North Carolina kids born into low-income families are not reaching the middle class.

MDC President David Dodson says the numbers around the state's largest economic centers are among the worst in the country.

"There are 24 commuting zones in North Carolina. In 22 of the 24 commuting zones, our mobility rates are at the bottom quarter for the chances that a young person born at the bottom has to move to a better place. That's pretty grim."

Dodson says there are negative criminal justice and health consequences for communities where a large number of people can't get jobs to support their families.

According to the report, an adult needs to make $21 per hour to support himself and a child. They're more likely to earn that with a post-secondary education.

Dodson says communities are responsible for inspiring students and providing them a solid education to pursue better jobs. He praises communities like Greenville, where the local health industry is collaborating with schools to prepare students for well-paying jobs there.

He also says companies need to be transparent about their expectations for their workforce.

"What are the talents and skills that we're going to require? How do we communicate those in detail, so that we can design programs at the community college, at the early college, at the high school, even at the middle school level, work-basked learning, apprenticeship, mentorship, that can turned local people into the talent that we are willing to pay a living wage for?"

Dodson says businesses also need to adjust their culture to retain workers.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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