Wealth serves as a buffer through economic downturns, job loss, and other unexpected emergencies such the COVID-19 pandemic. In Charlotte, households of color are more than twice as likely to lack sufficient savings or assets that can be used to pay for basic needs for three months without income when compared to White households.
The result: almost half of all Latinx and 44% of Black households wouldn’t be able to cover basic needs after three months.
The novel coronavirus is extracting a terrible toll from our society, replete with mind-boggling statistics: A death toll of more than 100,000, 40 million people unemployed, a 95% plunge in airline passengers and so many more.
The losses are immense. Grief is immeasurable. It’s still unclear how far-reaching and deep the economic pain we’re facing will run.
Amidst that, however, the pandemic offers lessons, and opportunities for change. Here are three lessons surfaced by COVID-19 that we should not let fade even after the virus is under control.
In Mecklenburg County, business ownership rates are proportionate to the racial and ethnic makeup of the county. But disparities persist: Although ownership is demographically proportionate, the majority of the economic value of business ownership is held in a small number of White-owned businesses.
Income is a major component of wealth, but the relationship between income and wealth is complex. Wealth and income are both used to measure a family’s economic situation, but they tell us different things about the health and strength of economic well-being.
Home ownership is one of the key strategies to close the racial wealth gap. A home is where households see gains in equity (market value of home minus any liens attached to property) and is typically the largest asset Americans hold, regardless of race or ethnicity.
But Black and Latinx households have considerably less equity in their homes than White and Asian households. As Richard Rothstein says in The Color of Law, “A home is one of the only assets where the race of the owner affects the rate of return.”
In the United States, White households have 10 times the wealth of Black households and 7 times the wealth of Latinx households.This has not occurred by mere happenstance. Wealth is built through a combination of pathways, each with its own history of policy and practice.
The consequences enhance or hinder asset building across racial and ethnic groups. The systemic patterns of racial inequity that lead to such stark differences in wealth accumulation are the same well-worn paths that lead to unequal outcomes in labor, housing, education, and health.
Since the coronavirus lockdowns began, Mecklenburg’s resource helpline has seen housing assistance requests jump 219% and food assistance jump 747%. These numbers are an indication of the dramatic impacts we’re seeing unfold on Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s economy.
As unemployment rises and schools remain closed, the coronavirus crisis is highlighting some of the many inequalities in the Charlotte region.
Those problems go beyond the ones we’re familiar with, such as income inequality and patterns of segregation. They point to deeply embedded inequalities in how we’ve built our city and our region, as well as access to key infrastructure.
Closed bars, restaurants and breweries. Hundreds of thousands of employees working from home while trying to home-school children. Near-empty road and no toilet paper on the shelves.
The immediate impacts from the coronavirus crisis are highly visible. But the virus could have more long-lasting and farther-reaching impacts beyond the immediate unemployment and economic disruption we’re seeing.
Here are five other areas the coronavirus could have an impact on our region.
Mecklenburg County residents are directed to stay at home through a new proclamation Tuesday, in order to limit their social contacts and slow the spread of coronavirus.
But some residents could find that harder to do: The rate of crowded housing varies widely across the city of Charlotte and the rest of the county.
If there has ever been an object lesson on why housing matters and why we must prioritize providing it for people who don’t have a place to live, this latest crisis should teach us. Charlotte’s homeless population is at particular risk as we collectively adjust to COVID-19.
Work to end homelessness takes on new urgency in a pandemic, for reasons of both personal and community safety. The lack of housing makes social distancing difficult, if not impossible. Many individuals experiencing homelessness are especially vulnerable to the virus because of high rates of underlying health conditions. A growing number of homeless individuals are over the age of 60. Simple necessities to maintain hygiene and prevent the spread of any infection are not regularly available (it’s hard to wash your hands for 20 seconds if you don’t have a sink).
Charlotte is home to the world’s sixth-busiest airport by takeoffs and landings, and Charlotte Douglas International is often cited as the region’s most important economic asset.
That’s why the airline industry’s sudden existential crisis could be especially consequential for the region.
Because of the coronavirus crisis, American Airlines and other carriers are struggling with the twin blow of a massive dropoff in customer demand and radically tightened restrictions on where they can fly.
Restaurant workers are grappling with the industry’s near shutdown in North Carolina due to coronavirus. Another category of workers being hit hard is those employed by the retail sector.
The closures have come swiftly over the past week, engulfing an ever-widening swath of stores locally:...
With Gov. Roy Cooper’s declaration this week that restaurants must close their dining rooms and move to carry-out only, restaurant workers across the region are scrambling to figure out how they’ll get by during the coronavirus crisis.
Food services and drinking establishments (basically, restaurants and bars) account for almost 9 percent of the region’s jobs: 115,000 out of 1.35 million total jobs in Mecklenburg and the surrounding 13 counties.
Post-war zoning effectively made America’s historic neighborhoods illegal. No longer could you live above the store. No longer could you build a duplex, triplex, or quadraplex amidst single-family houses. Now, most new housing was a homogenous spread of nothing but single-family bungalows. Apartments were all lumped together and quarantined off in a different part of the city. But stroll through any historic district here in Charlotte and what do you see? Exactly that old-fashioned mix of duplexes and quadraplexes nestled amongst single-family dwellings.
There’s a growing consensus that if we want to get out of the housing affordability mess we’re in, we need to hear a lot more swinging hammers.
Policymakers, developers and housing advocates are all talking about the need to build more, and more of everything: single-family houses, duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, townhouses and apartments. It’s fast become the conventional wisdom that we need to lower regulatory barriers, streamline the development process and unleash the power of the market on our housing problems by allowing as much density as possible.
Our purpose in studying the 32-county region wasn’t to merely document a Carolinas version of the familiar urban-rural divide. Instead, we sought to go beyond the conventional narrative of an irreversible split, and seek examples of connections – either residual or new – between urban and rural communities. Connections that might provide opportunities for renewal in places still struggling to adapt to the changing economic landscape of the 21st century.
“Regionalism” has become something of a public policy bromide these days — an unwritten assumption that informs the planning, economic and growth decisions that supersede any one political jurisdiction.
But what is easy to say can be hard to do.
The Charlotte region rose to prosperity on the strength of ties between its rural areas and urban center, but those ties have frayed in recent decades, with the decline of the textile industry and Charlotte’s emergence as an independent finance center.
The first annual Schul Forum Series, hosted by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, will examine what remains of those economic, social and cultural connections, and how we can work to revive them.
The narrative around rural areas has often held that people need to leave for a better chance to find success, typically in the city. But for many, leaving the place they love and call home never really feels like an option.
Here are seven stories of people who are turning that narrative on its head.
Charlotte and Mecklenburg County are still facing a large gap between the supply of affordable housing and the number of residents who need it, as inreasing rents and a tight housing market are squeezing more families’ budgets and putting them at risk of housing instability, evicion and homelessness.
To better understand commuter flows at select sites in the Carolinas Urban-Rural Connection region down to the individual level, we studied anonymized cell phone tracking data. We sought to determine how commuter connections differ between types of business districts and types of firms.
By mapping the residential location of workers at a broad range of employment locations, we were able to make some judgements about the local economic impact, and community-building abilities of specific business types.
An array of environmental, cultural and economic connections together give rise to the interdependence of the Carolinas Urban-Rural Connection study region. But none of these connections are more economically significant than the flow of workers within our regional economy.
Counties within the region relied on out-of-county commuters for their workforces more in 2015 than at any point in our history: nearly one-quarter of our region’s residents had jobs outside of their home county.
To move up the ladder of opportunity, there’s generally consensus that people need jobs that pay a living wage, where they can grow their earnings over time.
But what’s the best way to get workers, especially low-income workers with barriers such as low educational attainment, connected to those jobs? That’s the focus of the ReCONNECT to Economic Opportunity Forum, scheduled for Oct. 15 in Charlotte.
The city of Charlotte has a long reach. While this is certainly not a surprise, we don’t really know much about how Charlotte influences its surroundings and how far this reach extends. That question helped us pick our 32-county study area.
While Duke was building the world’s largest electrical network in the Western Piedmont, some Charlotte mill owners recognized that more money could be made loaning money to aspiring industrialists than making cloth themselves.
A growing web of infrastructure and physical connections - both within the wider region and between the region and the outside world - has had a profound effect on where growth went, and where it stayed away from. People and industries in the Carolinas Urban-Rural Connection study area followed trading paths, railroads, highways and, now, air service.
Almost one in six Mecklenburg residents were born outside the U.S., and immigrants make an outsized contribution to the local economy and many key industries.
That’s according to a new study that highlights the substantial role immigrants are playing in Charlotte’s booming growth. Immigrants make up big chunks of the local STEM, construction and manufacturing labor forces,. And they’re far from a monolithic group, hailing from countries around the world.
There was a stir in town a few weeks ago, when the new Charlotte Regional Business Alliance CEO, Janet LaBar, commented to the Charlotte Observer, “I think Charlotte doesn’t have a brand. That’s not necessarily, today, good or bad. That just means that’s an opportunity for us to actually create one.”
Smaller cities and towns across North Carolina are hoping an old, familiar sound will spark new life in their downtowns: The crack of a bat. Four new downtown ballparks with capacity for about 5,000 fans are popping up in the state, and officials are counting on them to draw new residents, breweries, restaurants and vitality.
“The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.”
President John F. Kennedy
To say that agriculture is important in North Carolina would be an obvious understatement. Agriculture and agribusiness, including...
With Charlotte’s population growing by more than 60 people a day, planners, politicians and many residents agree that denser development is inevitable in the city’s future. But just how dense - and where to build that extra density - remain thorny questions, especially when denser developments are proposed in single-family neighborhoods.
Nearly five years ago, Amber Lineback bought a bungalow in Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood neighborhood not only to enjoy the eclectic community and its proximity to Uptown, but as a place where her parents might one day live too.
On February 4, 2019, the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and Lake Norman Economic Development Corporation released the 2018 North Mecklenburg Demographic and Housing Assessment. This report presents the findings from a demographics and housing assessment for the northern part of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina (North Mecklenburg).
The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and Mecklenburg County Community Support Services released “Charlotte-Mecklenburg Evictions Part 3: One-month Snapshot of Eviction Court Records” on Wednesday, May 23, 2018.
Although existing entrepreneurial companies in Charlotte are seeing substantial revenue and job growth, an in-depth study of the state of entrepreneurship in Charlotte finds the area dramatically lags benchmark cities in inventions, venture capital and research dollars
Since the 1970s, the plight of the American middle class has been worsening. UNC Charlotte sociologist Scott Fitzgerald's most recent book details many of the causes and consequences. He'll speak publicly on Sept. 18. An interview.
Charlotte never experienced the dramatic housing bubble seen in other places in the country, but the local market is still under its August 2007 peak as measured by the Case-Shiller Index. Explore our data dashboard to see Charlotte's highs and lows compared with places like Atlanta and Denver. (Graphic: UNC Charlotte Urban Institute)