Economic mobility in every region of North Carolina ranks below the national average, according to a new report from MDC, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center based in Durham.

The study examines education, income and workforce data, and profiles innovative efforts to boost mobility in eight communities across the state. It documents the link between education and economic success: While 31% of North Carolinians who attain only a high school degree live in poverty, just 5% of people with a bachelor's degree are in poverty.

Among other findings:

  • Upward mobility in 22 of North Carolina's 24 regions called "commuting zones" ranks within the bottom quarter nationally – and Charlotte, Raleigh, Fayetteville and Greensboro rank in the bottom 10 of the nation's 100 largest commuting zones.
  • While mobility varies depending on where people live, only about one-third of children born into North Carolina families making less than $25,000 annually manage to climb into middle and upper income levels as adults.
  • Latinos and African Americans are more likely than whites to be in poverty and attain lower levels of education, leaving them less prepared for high-skill, well-paying jobs – and those disparities will increasingly affect North Carolina's economy as these populations grow to make up a larger proportion of the population.
  • A family of one parent and one child needs an income of $21 an hour to cover basic living expenses in North Carolina, yet only 26 percent of full-time jobs pay median earnings of that amount.
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