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March 15, 2010

Reducing persistent high poverty

We've seen poverty rates rise just about everywhere during this recession. However, even in good economic times many areas in our country and in North Carolina struggle with high unemployment and high poverty. What can be done to change this?

Dr. Mike Walden, North Carolina Cooperative Extension economist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University, responds:

"Economists, as people know, disagree on many things. But on this question, there is widespread agreement. The best advice for any locality, any county that is suffering from persistently high unemployment, persistently high poverty, is to increase the training and skills of workers in their area.

"That will work. Studies show time and time again in our modern economy businesses are attracted to areas where they have skills to hire -- where they have people with high levels of skills.

"And the good news is that these studies show that for let's say a 10 percent increase in educational attainment level in a high poverty county, they are going to get more bang for that buck, more bang for that increase than say a 10 percent increase in educational attainment in a high income county.

"So you really do get a lot of return for your money.

"However -- however -- these efforts should be put in perspective. You are not going to reduce the poverty, for example, among elderly people who are retired or among single parents who don't have the time to work. So you are not going to wipe out poverty in these areas, but you are going to see a dramatic improvement in poverty among working folks if you increase their skill level."

Posted by deeshore at March 15, 2010 07:47 AM