Income Mixing and Inequality in North Carolina’s Triad

North Carolina’s Triad region—including the cities of Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point—is the third-largest metro area in the state. Compared to the Triangle and Charlotte, however, the Triad hasn’t experienced such rapid population growth, and its population is less wealthy. Despite this, one-quarter of the Triad’s residents pay a disproportionate share of their income toward housing, and affordable housing has been an important election topic in Greensboro.

Triad map

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Further, many Triad communities have extremely poor income mobility for low-income children. In fact, Forsyth County—where Winston-Salem is located—is ranked 3rd-to-last in the country*; a poor child who grew up in Forsyth County would earn $6,200 less in annual income at age 26 than a child who was raised in the average county in the US.

In this post, we use the same two measures to gauge income segregation and inequality as we did in the Triangle and Charlotte: the Simpson Index (which measures income segregation and mixing) and the 100/25 ratio (which measures income inequality). Higher Simpson scores (areas in green) indicate greater income mixing (and lower income segregation), while areas of lower mixing are in red. Higher 100/25 ratios (in blue) mean that a neighborhood has many more wealthy households than poor ones. Lower values (in red) mean the opposite: more low-income households than wealthy ones.

Income Polarization in Greensboro and Winston-Salem

Like the Triangle and Charlotte, the Triad’s larger cities contain pockets of low income mixing (and thus high income segregation). These areas include neighborhoods east and south of downtown Greensboro, areas surrounding downtown Winston-Salem, and most of downtown High Point. Both Greensboro and Winston-Salem, however, include some highly-mixed neighborhoods near downtown as well.

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Woodberry Run Public Housing Apartments in Greensboro

The 100/25 ratio shows high income inequality throughout most of Guilford (Greensboro and High Point) and Forsyth (Winston-Salem) Counties. Most areas within the Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point city limits contain many more low-income households, with the exceptions of Greensboro’s Irving Park and Winston-Salem’s Buena Vista and Westview neighborhoods. Beyond the city limits, north and west Guilford and western Forsyth County have many more wealthy households than poor ones.

High mixing in rural areas, but substantial inequality in small towns

Like the Triangle and Charlotte, the Triad’s outlying counties—like Surry, Rockingham, and Davie—feature high levels of income mixing in more rural areas and concentrated income segregation in cities and towns. This is particularly true of Burlington and, to a lesser extent, smaller cities like Lexington, Asheboro, and Mt. Airy. Beyond those cities, though, most areas have relatively high income mixing.

Patterns of income inequality also mirror those in outlying counties of the Triangle and Charlotte. Overall, these counties have slightly more low-income households than wealthy ones, though the larger cities—especially High Point and Burlington—have many more poor families.

Fostering income mixing in the Triad

Like Charlotte and the Triangle, addressing income segregation and inequality is crucial in many parts of the Triad. Both Guilford and Forsyth Counties have very high levels of income inequality, with middle- and upper-income households nearly absent from some neighborhoods in Greensboro and Winston-Salem.

Given North Carolina cities’ limited ability to incentivize affordable housing (a topic we will address in a future post), local jurisdictions must pursue innovative strategies to reduce income segregation and inequality. Winston-Salem offers (voluntary) density bonuses, where developers are allowed to build more units if some of them are affordable. A new project may soon use this density bonus to redevelop a part of the city’s downtown. To address the city’s income inequality, though, developers must use these bonuses to build affordable housing in neighborhoods currently out of reach of poor families.

*The two counties with worse income mobility for low-income children? Oglala Lakota (formerly Shannon) and Todd County, South Dakota—both of which are wholly located within Indian reservations.

One thought on “Income Mixing and Inequality in North Carolina’s Triad

  1. Pingback: Transportation Affordability in North Carolina’s Cities | Urban 2 Point 0

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