Charlotte ranks last in upward mobility study

Published: Jan. 30, 2014 at 11:31 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 1, 2014 at 11:31 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte resident Vanessa Hayden has a job, but that doesn't mean she's making it. Sometimes I get really depressed," she told WBTV's Coleen Harry.

Like so many of the working poor, she lives precariously. "From check to check," she said. "Sometimes I ask my boss man if I can pick my check up on Thursday just so I can have groceries for Friday."

Hayden fears she'll never get ahead, and living in Charlotte, she should worry according to a new study researched by some of the country's top universities and The Treasury Department.

The study ranked Charlotte dead last among the country's 50 largest cities for upward mobility, meaning it is harder to climb out of poverty here than in any other major U.S. metro area. The odds of moving up in Charlotte - just 4.4%.

Today, WBTV's Melissa Hankins sat down with United Way Executive Director Jane McIntyre to find out why. She said first, understand this - most of the homeless people her agency helps here classify as the working poor.

"The individuals that are homeless, most of them work," McIntyre said. "They are part time, they  may have a job that is a lower level job, they may be making minimum wage which is not enough to survive or support a family on."

Charlotte, McIntyre says, does a great job of recruiting companies like Electrolux, which pays its employees on average six figures, and the city is famous for cultivating wealthy bankers. What we don't have lots of - blue collar jobs. The kind that pay people enough to support themselves but that don't require tons of education. "Because everyone will not be a college graduate," she says.

Charlotte City Council members say they're starting to get it.

"There are a lot of people in this community who need a good blue collar job," said Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes.

Charlotte City Council Member-At-Large David Howard agrees. "The lower income, that middle income area is where we continue to need to grow jobs," he said.

And just last night the council approved an incentive package for Black and Decker, which will create 250 blue collar jobs.

But McIntyre cautions that's not enough. "There are between 70 and 80,000 individuals that do not have a high school diploma," she says.

And that is necessary for any kind of job. Improving Charlotte Mecklenburg's schools "will change it all honestly," she said. "I believe if we can improve that education because then they do have an opportunity for upward mobility."

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