By Special to the Daily World
The American South was the only region in the nation to show increases in both the poverty rate and the number of poor persons from 2009 to 2010, according to U.S. Census data released recently.
“More than half the total increase (56 percent) in the number of poor persons in the United States from 2009 to 2010 resided in the South,” notes Steve Suitts, vice president of the Southern Education Foundation (SEF), which monitors trends relating to the region’s education and income. “In other words, the South had more people fall into poverty in 2010 than did all of the states across the rest of America combined.”
The South’s poverty rate and numbers in 2010 —16.9 percent and 19.1 million in 2010 – were up from 15.7 percent and 17.6 million in 2009:
“Most of the growth in Southern poverty has come during the last year among children and those adults with too little education,” Suitts stated. As in the past, Mississippi and Louisiana had the nation’s highest rate of child poverty (under 18 years of age) at 35.6 percent and 30 percent in 2010. Six of the 10 states with the highest child poverty rates are in the South (Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, Texas, Georgia and Alabama.
North Carolina is now tied with Arizona with the fourth-highest child poverty rate. Texas follows closely behind. And Georgia has the nation’s eighth-highest child poverty rate – with one of every four children living in poverty.
“Georgia’s child poverty rate is now higher than the rates of all neighboring states, including Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida,” Suitts said.
“The highest rates of poverty in 2010 in the South and the nation were among adults and young people with far too little education,” Suitts said. Forty-five percent of all persons who were not enrolled in school and who had no high school diploma were poor last year, and 55 percent of all women without a high school diploma were in poverty.
“Even in hard times, the South must build a better future by increasing the education and care of more children and more young people,” Suitts concluded. “It is the only way the region will reverse these trends over time and build a prosperous, inclusive future for every Southerner.”
A 2010 SEF report, “A New Diverse Majority,” revealed that the South is today the only region in the nation where a majority of public schoolchildren are both low income and non-White.