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Updated Chetty study data paints a different picture of economic mobility in Mecklenburg County

This map shows the household income at age 35 who grew up poor. Areas in red and orange have less money.
Opportunity Atlas
This map shows the household income at age 35 who grew up poor with areas in red and orange having less money.

The “Land of Opportunity Study," also known as the Chetty study, was released in 2014 by a team from Harvard and the University of California-Berkeley. The data showed the Charlotte region ranked 50 out of 50 among the nation’s largest metro areas in terms of economic mobility. This painted a bleak picture for the outlook of Charlotte’s poorest residents.

The study served as a major wake-up call for city officials and community members. Money was raised. Programs were launched. Leaders attempted to take action to address and correct trends in mobility in the region. Attention was paid to areas like pre-K education, affordable housing and transportation.

Now, new information and a slightly different look at the data paints a different picture of economic mobility in Charlotte. The programs Charlotte has started in that time and the money raised were needed, but would the immediate and urgent action have taken place if we were, say 45 out of 50?

We’ll take a new look at the study and the updated information with a panel of experts on Charlotte Talks.


Steve Harrison, WFAE political reporter

Isabel “Belle” Sawhill, senior fellow in Economic Studies in the Center on Children and Families and the Future of the Middle Class Initiative at the Brookings Institution.

William “Teddy” McDaniel, president and CEO of the Urban League of Central Carolinas

David Williams, policy director for High Opportunity Neighborhood Partners, a real estate firm dedicated to breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty by providing homes to low-income families in high opportunity neighborhoods.

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Charlotte Talks Executive Producer Wendy Herkey has been with WFAE since 1998, beginning in the membership department, and has been on the Charlotte Talks staff since 1999.