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Over the years, we have all heard the stories of how many African-Americans and others are returning home to the South or moving there in search of a better life.

The lure of sleepy neighborhoods, cheaper housing, safer schools, and an all-around better lifestyle that seems to elude larger cities, is what draws people to the area.

However, is it all a pipe dream? According to an article earlier this month in The Atlantic magazine for many, it definitely is.

In the article, “Why It’s So Hard To Get Ahead In The South,” written by Alana Semuels, it said that poor children across the Southern region have the lowest odds of making it out of poverty compared to other children in the country. Even in a city like Charlotte, North Carolina, it is tough to get ahead.

As an example, Semuels interviewed Shamelle Jackson who moved there from Philadelphia, hoping to find work opportunities and better schools for her four children, who range in age from two to 14. Instead, she found a city with expensive housing, few good jobs, and schools that can vary dramatically in quality. “I’ve never struggled as hard as I do here in Charlotte,” Jackson, 34, told the author of The Atlantic report.

Shamelle Jackson isn’t alone. Data suggests that Charlotte is a dead-end for people trying to escape poverty. That’s especially startling because the city is a leader in economic development in the South. Bank of America is headquartered here, and over the last two decades the city has become a hub for the financial services industry.

Considered an economic powerhouse in the South and ranked among one of the fastest-growing regions in the country, Charlotte is a very different place for others. “It’s also a city that faces very stark disparities and that increasingly includes worrisome pockets of real deprivation,” Gene Nichol, a professor at the UNC School of Law, said in part in the article.

The reality of Charlotte and other large Southern cities will not make the covers of tourism brochures anytime soon. According to the “Equality of Opportunity Project,” by researchers from Harvard, Stanford, and Berkeley, Charlotte ranked last in an analysis of economic mobility in America’s 50 largest cities.

Simply put, economic mobility is all about the American dream and the percentage of how well children are projected to do better than their parents. Apparently, children born into the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution in Charlotte had just a 4.4 percent chance of making it to the top 20 percent of the income distribution.  In Atlanta, it is 4.5 percent, in Raleigh 5 percent, and in New Orleans, it is 5.1 percent. These percentages pale in comparison to other cities outside of the region such as 12.9 percent in San Jose (Silicon Valley), California and 10.8 percent in Salt Lake City.

There are many key factors contributing to the disparity in Southern living including systemic racism, the fact that cities are more racially segregated than the rest of the country, having a higher poverty level than the national average, and more single mothers.

Top Southern states lagging far behind in mobility are Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, and North Carolina. The states with the highest poverty rates in the country belong to North Carolina (39th), Louisiana (49th), and Mississippi-last.

To find out more about this issue and to read the studies mentioned in The Atlantic article, please click HERE.

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Why Getting Ahead In The South Is Harder Than You Think  was originally published on