Politics & Government

Report: 11% of North Carolina’s children live in high-poverty neighborhoods

Eleven percent of the state’s children live in high-poverty neighborhoods, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation set for release Tuesday.

Black and Latino children are more likely to live in neighborhoods where 30% or more of the residents live in poverty, according to a press release from NC Child. Black children are six times more likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods, according to the press release, and Latino children are five times more likely to live in these neighborhoods. NC Child receives grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

North Carolina was one of 25 states with more than 10% of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods, according to the foundation’s data.

At the same time, the unemployment rate for parents has dropped from 8% in 2012 to 3% in 2018, according to foundation data. The percentage of low-income working families with children has dropped from 26% in 2016 to 24% in 2018. And the report says that children living in concentrated poverty declined 8% from 2008-2012 to 2013-2017.

Any progress is good, said Whitney Tucker, NC Child’s research director. But the decline in unemployment doesn’t a account for parents who are underemployed or who are working two or three jobs, she said.

“Lower unemployment doesn’t mean families aren’t still struggling,” she said. “Just having a job doesn’t necessarily mean you have enough.”

Neighborhoods where children grow up have been shown to influence their success in adulthood, The New York Times has reported.

Middle-class black families are more likely to live in low-income neighborhoods than low-income white families, according to a New York Times report. The disparity was attributed to historical housing discrimination and the racial wealth gap.

NC Child supports policies such as expanding Medicaid, which would allow more parents to have health insurance; expanding location-specific employment training, and ending discriminatory practices in employment, housing, and finance.

NC Child supports the Medicaid expansion bill under consideration in the House, House bill 655, which would allow more adults who meet income requirements to enroll in the government heath insurance program if they are working and pay a 2 percent premium.

North Carolina should consider an employment training program similar to EARN Maryland, a state grant program Tucker described as “industry-specific and regionally focused.”

NC Child also supports broad policy changes such as “Ban the Box” legislation, which would prohibit employers from asking about criminal convictions on job applications, and paid sick leave, so low-wage parents don’t have to worry about missing work to take care of a sick child, Tucker said.

A Ban the Box bill was filed in the state legislature in 2017, The News & Observer reported. The bill died in committee without getting a hearing.

A bill filed this year, House bill 46, includes provisions that would “Ban the Box” and require employers offer paid sick leave, but has not had a committee hearing.

The increased likelihood of black families living in low-income neighborhoods “is not because those parents are working any less hard than other parents,” Tucker said.

Lynn Bonner has worked at The News & Observer since 1994, and has written about the state legislature and politics since 1999. Contact her at lbonner@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4821.