About State of the South

The State of the South is MDC’s flagship publication, published since 1996. It became the mission of MDC, through The State of the South, to paint a clear portrait of the region and spell out critical recommendations for economic and social advancement. Founded in 1967 to help North Carolina make the transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy and from a segregated to an integrated workforce, MDC now focuses on increasing educational attainment, connecting people to work that pays, and helping them get the resources they need to become successful. Learn more about MDC >

Recovering Our Courage

As MDC marks its 50th year as a catalyst for a South where all people thrive, the moment is ripe to look backward and forward, to examine how we have progressed and what we must do to be a region that is inclusive, equitable, and capable of sustaining its forward momentum.

We found that 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement and MDC’s founding, Southern outcomes in education, employment, and income are better—but they aren’t nearly good enough. The vision of an inclusive and thriving South is still elusive. We have substituted a culture of withdrawal for a culture of investment. Today, we see the re-segregation of schools and the persistence of racial disparities in housing and employment, some enabled by state and federal legislation, some perpetuated by structural inequities that laws didn’t remove or relieve. Few Southern cities are achieving growth, prosperity, and inclusive economic outcomes that improve conditions across the socioeconomic spectrum; regional growth and prosperity, matched with limited inclusion of historically disadvantaged populations, will likely exacerbate social fissures produced by shifting demographics and increased income inequality.

Can the levers of progress that helped us move forward before be elevated and reinvigorated to do so again? This report looks at our aspirations and ways we can lay the foundation for a South that is inclusive, equitable, resilient, and committed to propelling all its people forward.

All photography © Billy Barnes | content © 2018, MDC | Credits and Acknowledgements