Charlotte, North Carolina: A City with One of the Lowest Economic Mobility Rates in the Nation

(By Ethan Ehrenhaft - The Davidsonian)

“I’ve heard it framed as if it’s almost like there are ‘two Charlottes,’” commented Meg Fencil, the Program Director of Sustain Charlotte, a non-profit organization. According to Fencil, those two hypothetical cities consist of the “shiny, economically vibrant Charlotte with the banking center and uptown” and the other Charlotte, “with intergenerational poverty,” bearing the 50th out of 50 cities label.

Charlotte has more than doubled its population since 1990 and now boasts 842,051 residents in 2017. The city can expect to add over 400,000 people in the next 25 years. Public transportation and roadworks have lagged far behind the population swell, as have housing projects. A study carried out by the University of Utah found that of 162 “urbanized areas” nationwide, Charlotte had the 5th worst urban sprawl, as measured by compactness of residential areas.

“One of the things that has no doubt had an impact is the way Charlotte has grown over the last three decades,” stated Dr. Vikram Kumar, the current Chair of the Economics Department. While the prosperity of Charlotte’s financial, healthcare, and energy sectors “has lead to a redevelopment and renaissance of the uptown area, it is also true that people who have lived here for many generations historically, including underprivileged households, have likely had to have moved away due to increasing tax burdens and increasing property values,” according to Kumar.

Sustain Charlotte works on addressing many of the issues linked to Charlotte’s economic immobility. One of the more pressing problems, visible to any Davidson student who frequents I-77, is the drastic need for improved transportation infrastructure. The rapidly increasing population sprawl also means building a cohesive public transportation system is especially important.

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