My colleagues and I, from the NC Poverty Research Fund, spent much time last year in two very distinct communities — Goldsboro and Wilkes County. Our studies there indicated clearly that North Carolina’s economic recovery has not been widely shared. They also revealed much about the state’s yawning rural-urban divide. Finally, they highlighted a continuing polarization that marks the politics of North Carolina and the South.
Goldsboro, of course, lies about 60 miles southeast of Raleigh, in Wayne County. Its population, some 36,000, has actually dropped modestly since 1990. Although Seymour Johnson Air Force Base provides a sound and much-needed economic foundation, Goldsboro’s poverty challenges are among the most daunting in North Carolina.
A 2015 national study found Goldsboro to be the fifth-poorest city in America. Stanford University's mobility studies concluded that 95 percent of the country’s metropolitan areas had better economic mobility rates than Goldsboro. The Pew Research Center determined, in 2016, that the last decade brought the city a 26 percent drop in median income and huge losses in middle income employment. Both figures were among the very worst the country has experienced.
Over 25 percent of Goldsboro residents live in poverty. Forty percent of all kids are poor, over half of African-American children. In some census tracts we studied, 65 percent of kids were impoverished. And Goldsboro has nearly the worst racially-driven, concentrated poverty in North Carolina.