Report: It's tough to get ahead in North Carolina

A new report finds that it's tougher for children in low-income families to get ahead in North Carolina than in many other parts of the country.

The News and Observer reports the problem will likely get worse as poor and minority children with the least education become a larger proportion of the state population.

Projections show that more jobs in North Carolina will require more education even as a growing proportion of the population will be less prepared.

The report entitled "North Carolina's Economic Imperative: Building an Infrastructure of Opportunity," was compiled by MDC, a nonpartisan research center in Durham, and commissioned by the John Belk Endowment.

It finds that in 22 of 24 areas in the state, upward mobility ranks in the bottom quarter nationally. Charlotte, Raleigh, Fayetteville and Greensboro rank in the bottom 10 of the nation's 100 largest commuting zones in terms of upward mobility.

"North Carolina has a significant mobility problem when it comes to the chances of moving from the bottom to the top," said David Dodson, president of MDC. "Most children born to low-income families in North Carolina will not reach median income as adults unless current patterns change decisively."

The study found, among other things, that only about a third of children born into North Carolina families with an annual income of less than $25,000 will achieve middle- or upper-income as adults.

"If we don't change that, we're going to have a corrosive civic culture and corrosive state and community," Dodson said. "The upward mobility story, the American dream, is really central to our notions of a successful life. And the sad story is too many people are stuck, generation to generation, at the bottom."

The report, like others, concludes that education beyond high school is important.

While only 5 percent North Carolinians with a college degree live in poverty, 31 percent of those with only a high school education do.

But Dodson said some things are happening in North Carolina that can help change the picture.

The state has a network of early college high schools, community colleges and universities that can help students get early college credit. There are also a growing number of apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs.

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