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The State of the South 2010: Two Recessions Rev Up Poverty Rates

May 26, 2010

CHAPEL HILL, N. C. - Two recessions have proven to be too much for most of the South, according to a report released today by MDC, a nonprofit research organization in Chapel Hill. "The State of the South 2010" finds the region was quickly knocked off its fast track in efforts to reducing poverty and raise wages for low-wage and middle-class workers. Ferrel Guillory, MDC senior fellow, is one of the report authors.

"After 20 years of diminishing poverty, now southern states have poverty rates back at the mid-1990s level."

Guillory says those on the low-end of the wage ladder aren't the only ones hurting. The report finds median household income decreased in the South more than any other region in the past ten years. On the upside, he notes most large metropolitan areas are still creating good-paying jobs, and Texas and North Carolina are two states that have weathered the recessions better than other southern states.

The strategy for getting the South back on a pathway to economic success isn't exactly clear, according to Guillory, because the lower-skill jobs that used to pay middle-class wages are gone. Nearly two million jobs have disappeared, and he doesn't expect them to return.

"A lot of these textile, furniture and other kinds of manufacturing jobs are gone for good, and so, we need to educate people beyond high school."

This economic snapshot is the first in a series of "chapters" in The State of the South 2010 report. Topics to be covered later this year include exploring ways to bolster rural economies, focusing on high school dropouts, and developing a new generation of political leaders to replace retiring baby boomers. The report is online at

Deb Courson, Public News Service - NC