The Faces of Poverty in North Carolina

Stories from Our Invisible Citizens

Revised Edition

By Gene R. Nichol

With a new afterword by the author

Approx. 256 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 7 maps, 20 graphs, 2 tables, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6613-6
    Published: December 2021
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-6617-4
    Published: November 2021

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit
More than 1.5 million North Carolinians today live in poverty. More than one in five are children. Behind these sobering statistics are the faces of our fellow citizens. This book tells their stories. Since 2012, Gene R. Nichol has traveled the length of North Carolina, conducting hundreds of interviews with poor people and those working to alleviate the worst of their circumstances. In an afterword to this new edition, Nichol draws on fresh data and interviews with those whose voices challenge all of us to see what is too often invisible, to look past partisan divides and preconceived notions, and to seek change. Only with a full commitment as a society, Nichol argues, will we succeed in truly ending poverty, which he calls our greatest challenge.

About the Author

Gene R. Nichol is the Boyd Tinsley Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
For more information about Gene R. Nichol, visit the Author Page.


"Gene Nichol's study of poverty in North Carolina should be done everywhere, with this book as the model. Its story is a troubling wake-up call that demands attention. Nichol shows how a perfect storm of state economic difficulties and a virulent slash of public benefits has been felt in every aspect of life: education, health, hunger, homelessness, and more. And the voices captured here reveal that racism means poor people of color are hit even harder than the population as a whole. You have to read this book."--Peter Edelman, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law and Public Policy, Georgetown Law Center

"Nichol's book brilliantly exposes the human face of poverty in North Carolina and shows what a short and slippery slope it is from a manageable middle class existence into a life of tremendous hardship with all too few community or other support mechanisms that a caring society would ensure."--Philip G. Alston, special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, United Nations Human Rights Council

"Through penetrating interviews and honest narrative, Gene Nichol personalizes poverty in North Carolina as few have previously done. The life stories chronicled here show persuasively that poverty cannot be understood by citing statistics. The book is a must read for all North Carolina policy makers."--Patricia Timmons-Goodson, Retired Associate Justice, Supreme Court of North Carolina

"The closest most North Carolinians get to those who are truly down and out is when they stop at an intersection waiting for the light to change. This book can help them 'see'--to make visible the disappeared."--Robert Korstad, author of To Right These Wrongs: The North Carolina Fund and the Battle to End Poverty and Inequality in 1960s America

"A must read for all North Carolina policy makers."--Patricia Timmons-Goodson