In Greenville, South Carolina, economic resurgence and downtown redevelopment are celebrated, but underlying equity and mobility issues remain. Of the 100 largest U.S. cities, Greenville is in the bottom ten for economic mobility of young people—sitting precariously above only a handful of other Southern metros, including Raleigh, Charlotte, and Atlanta. We profiled Greenville and how leaders there are working to connect the city’s young people with economic prosperity in the State of the South report. (You read and download the full profile here.)
“A young person’s economic prospects should not be determined by his or her zip code,” says John Concklin, program investment manager at United Way of Greenville County. “Unfortunately, in the area known as the ‘White Horse Corridor,’ prospects for a successful future are tough—32 percent of households live in poverty; 66 percent have only a high school diploma or less; unemployment is greater than 25 percent in some sections; and the city’s lowest performing high schools are found here.”
To improve youth mobility, Greenville, like many Southern metros, needs to eliminate disparities in social and economic outcomes, which appear along geographic and racial lines. Let’s take a look at some data on growth and inequality in Greenville. (Some of the data below is from the National Equity Atlas—check it out for a trove of data on equity in all 50 states and the largest 150 metro areas).
Greenville has outpaced the US in post-recession job and GDP growth:
But income growth has not occurred for people at levels of the income distribution (with 10th percentile workers being low-income and 90th percentile as high income):
And low-wage jobs are growing at a much larger rate than high-wage jobs:
Unemployment is higher for people with lower levels of educational attainment, but black workers are more likely to be unemployed than white workers at the same level of education:
And the average level of educational attainment is much lower for people of color in Greenville:
Higher levels of educational attainment mean higher income and lower poverty. People with less formal education are worse off in Greenville than in the U.S. on average, but those with four-year degrees or higher are doing better than in the U.S. on average:
Greenville must continue to work to improve youth mobility, because without more equitable development, the area’s long-term economic foundations will be weakened. The people with the most at stake—young people—will likely be the ones with the best ideas for how to do that.
“As we’ve started working at the neighborhood level, we’ve learned that we have to do more than blanket a neighborhood with programs and supports without engaging its residents in the solution,” says Tish Young McCutchen, vice president of organizational planning and public affairs at United Way of Greenville County. “After all, the people living in the neighborhood are even more invested in outcomes than we are—because it’s their lives and futures. We want them to be at the table from the beginning, helping to create the solution.”
For more on how Greenville, South Carolina is trying to connect young people to economic opportunity, read the full profile.