In URBAN CENTERS we look at how low-wage employment is distributed across the major population centers of North Carolina. It is important to examine patterns of low-wage employment in major cities, as these areas represent the largest economies and populations in the state and are expected to grow considerably over the coming decades. We gathered low-wage employment numbers and socioeconomic data for the 15 largest urban centers (at the county level) across the state’s three main regions – Coastal, Piedmont, and Mountains. We then focused on four major urban centers  – Raleigh/Wake County; Charlotte/Mecklenburg County; Asheville/Buncombe County; and Wilmington/New Hanover County – to determine whether low-wage jobs are concentrating in downtowns or suburbs, whether there are mismatches between where low-income residents live and work, and whether trends are consistent across the four urban centers. 

How does low-wage work affect North Carolina’s largest urban communities?

From our analysis of urban centers we see that there is a high concentration of low-wage jobs here. However, many of the urban low-wage workers cannot afford to actually live where they work. This puts the time and expense stress of commuting on them and also burdens urban and suburban infrastructure.

We also found that low-wage jobs are prevalent in both low-income and high-income census tract areas of urban centers. The gallery of maps below examines this trend across the four urban centers of focus.