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UNCW Hosts Poverty Conference

17 percent of North Carolinians meet the federal definition of living in poverty. Under that definition, a family of four will have an income of less than about $22,000.

WHQR’s Michelle Bliss reports that community leaders in southeastern North Carolina are gathering this week to talk about tackling this issue in a region where poverty levels are even higher than the state average.

Earl Sheridan chairs UNCW’s Department of Public and International Affairs. He co-organized this week’s conference to generate a dialogue beyond the event.

“If there are political leaders there, or whoever is there, that they will go back with a great awareness that this is an issue out there, and perhaps do what they can in their prospective positions to try to address these concerns or at least be aware of them when they make public policy decisions.”

UNCW’s regional conference on poverty will include remarks from keynote speaker Yolanda Burwell, a senior fellow for the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center.

Burwell says the area boasts natural economic resources, like the coast, but many neighboring counties, like Robeson, Columbus, Duplin, and Bladen, are well above the state’s poverty rate.

“People can’t rise in the economy if there is that much poverty still. And so, on the one hand, we have opportunities and tourism, and jobs that follow that kind of economy may not help people get out of poverty.”

Both Duplin and Columbus have poverty rates of 23 percent while Bladen is at 26 percent.

In Robeson, 30 percent of residents are in poverty while nearly 44 percent of children in the county meet the federal definition of poverty.

Check out the poverty rates in all North Carolina counties from the NC Rural Economic Development Center. 

Do you have insight or expertise on this topic? If so, we'd like to hear from you. Please email the WHQR News Team.



After growing up in Woodbridge, Virginia, Michelle attended Virginia Tech before moving to Wilmington to complete her Master in Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. Her reporting and nonfiction writing have been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, within the pages of Wrightsville Beach Magazine, and in literary journals like River Teeth and Ninth Letter. Before moving to Wilmington, Michelle served as the general manager for WUVT, a community radio station in Blacksburg, Virginia. She lives with her husband Scott and their pups, Katie, Cooper, and Mosey.