The Moral Challenges of Poverty and Inequality

The Moral Challenges of Poverty and Inequality

The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University

During the winter of 2010, more than 10,000 homes in North Carolina had no heat and almost twice that number had no indoor plumbing. Fifty thousand families in our state went without food at some point during the past year. Eleven percent of North Carolinians were unemployed in 2009, compared to 7 percent in 2008 and 4.2 percent in 2000. More than 1.5 million people have no health insurance, meaning that a single accident or serious illness could leave them with insurmountable debt.

Clearly, these jaw-dropping statistics require serious policy and political solutions. But the issues they raise are not only for policymakers and politicians to debate in conference rooms and legislative halls. They constitute a moral challenge to all of us who live in North Carolina. We must confront them and ask ourselves what they say about who we are—as individuals, as citizens, and as members of our local communities.

The Institute is sponsoring a project on The Moral Challenges of Poverty and Inequality in collaboration with the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

The overarching goals of this project are to raise awareness and a sense of urgency among the public about the ongoing prevalence of poverty and inequality in North Carolina; to analyze competing ethical principles and their resulting policy prescriptions; and to educate future leaders about the human and economic costs of poverty and the moral challenge it poses in a democracy.

In the first year of this three-year project, we will pursue these objectives on two fronts:

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