Raleigh is used to placing in “Top Ten” and “Best Of” national lists, but the City of Oaks is falling short in an important area. In a recent study, Raleigh was ranked 94th out of 100 in youth mobility; contrast that with its number one spot on Forbes magazine’s “Best Places for Business and Careers” list.

And Raleigh is not alone.

According to Durham non-profit MDC’s State of the South 2014 report, economically vibrant Southern metros like Raleigh, Charlotte, Nashville, Atlanta, Dallas and Houston are doing a poor job of propelling their own young people up the ladder of social and economic mobility.

The report, “Building an Infrastructure of Opportunity for the Next Generation,” points to political gridlock at the state and national levels that is freezing the pursuit of public policies that promote education and economic development. Communities, it concludes, are suffering as a result.

North Carolina is a test case for this. Following the economic Recession and the Republican sweep of state government in 2010, per-pupil spending in K-12 public education has declined from fiscal years 2008-2014, and the state’s Community Colleges and University system have seen budget cuts as well.

The study found that of a group of 100 ninth graders region- wide

– 25 to 40 students don’t graduate high school in four years

– Roughly 25 graduate from high school but don’t go directly to college

– 15 enroll in Community College, but don’t make it through their second year

– Fewer than 20 receive an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in 3-6 years

Furthermore, Southern states incarcerate 45 percent of all state-held inmates in the nation; 40 percent of those prisoners are between the ages of 18 and 29. African Americans represent more than one third of inmates and state prisoners.

The report concludes that in order to improve social mobility, Southern communities need to create an “infrastructure of opportunity” for young people that consists of “a clear and deliberate set of pathways and supports that connect youth and young adults to educational credentials and economic opportunity.”

And virtually everyone—employers, education systems, community-based organizations, policy makers, civic leaders, philanthropists and young people themselves—needs to be involved.