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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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by David A. Norris, 2006
Additional research provided by K. Todd Johnson, Jay Mazzocchi, and Wiley J. Williams.

Poverty- Part 1: Introduction

Part 1: Introduction

Programs and initiatives to alleviate poverty and aid the needy have been undertaken in North Carolina since colonial times. In addition to private organizations and churches, government at various levels has attempted to address poverty issues, with mixed results. There is a direct correlation between poverty and poor health, reduced access to cultural and recreational opportunities, increased crime victimization, and below-average academic achievement. Even with the state's overall economic prosperity, poverty remains a persistent and disturbing feature of North Carolina's landscape, particularly in the rural Coastal Plain. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2005, 23 North Carolina counties-19 of which were located in the east-experienced poverty rates of over 18 percent. Twenty of these poorer counties had held similarly high rates since data collection began in 1960. More than half a million rural North Carolinians were living in poverty, with children and minority groups suffering disproportionately higher rates.

Keep reading >> Part 2: Public Charity in the Colonial Era through the Nineteenth Century  Keep reading


A. Laurance Aydlett, "The North Carolina State Board of Public Welfare," NCHR 24 (January 1947).

Guion G. Johnson, Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History (1937).

Robert S. Rankin, The Government and Administration of North Carolina (1955).

Additional Resources:

Center on Poverty, Work, and Opporunity, UNC School of Law:

North Carolina Fact, U.S. Census Bureau:

Poverty Grows, North Carolina Justice Center: