No drop in poverty in 2014
Louisiana’s economy is improving by some measures. But the economic gains have failed to dent the state’s shameful rate of poverty, according to new American Community Survey (ACS) data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. Almost one in five Louisianans–about 896,000 people–lived below the poverty line in 2014. The share of Louisianans living in poverty was the same as in 2013 — 19.8 percent. Louisiana had the third highest poverty rate last year, behind only Mississippi and New Mexico.
An even higher rate of Louisiana’s children lived in poverty–27.9 percent, statistically unchanged from the year before. That’s 306,000 children, enough to fill Tiger Stadium three times over. Compared to other states, Louisiana is losing ground. The Pelican State moved from having the fourth-highest child poverty rate in 2013 to the third-highest in 2014.
“This disappointing data shows that Louisiana still has a long way to go to create an economy that works for everyone,” LBP Director Jan Moller said. “With so many families struggling to afford the basics, poverty should be a front-burner issue for any candidate seeking office this fall.”
Stark racial disparities persist. While 12.8 percent of white Louisianans lived in poverty last year, the rate was 33.7 percent for black Louisianans. The disparities for children are especially shameful for a modern industrial society and shock the conscience: about one in seven white children (14.7 percent) are poor, compared to nearly half of black children (48.1 percent).
The share of Louisianans living in “deep poverty”–defined as just half the poverty line or less than $6,000 in annual income for an individual–stayed at 9.1 percent last year, unchanged from the year before. That means more than 400,000 Louisianans were living with the equivalent of just $10 to $15 a day or less in cash income in 2014. To read more about the latest Census data, click here.
Candidates failing to address poverty
There is a “serious sin” looming over the governor’s race, and it isn’t what you think, writes Nola.com columnist Bob Mann:
I’m talking about the immorality of our blithe acceptance of Louisiana’s deep and chronic poverty. Our endemic poverty is more appalling and harmful to Louisiana than anything Vitter ever did with a prostitute – and it ought to shame the candidates, the news media and the voters if we let another governor’s race expire without addressing the state’s most serious problem. We ignore poverty’s role in our children’s inability to learn. We blame teachers and schools, when the true failure is societal. We refuse to see that poor children, even those in wonderful schools, do not perform (on average) as well as kids from more affluent families. We abide a caste system that provides health insurance for the poorest and wealthiest among us – but sinfully abandons the working poor and punishes them for their labor. We are content with a regressive tax code that penalizes the poor and rewards the rich. We’re content with a minimum wage that is a poverty wage.
t’s time to admit that our deep poverty isn’t just a problem; it’s an existential threat…Imagine, for a moment, that you live in East Carroll Parish, where the poverty level is an appalling 46 percent. Imagine knowing, as the people in East Carroll surely comprehend, that the state’s leadership and the candidates for governor have no comprehensive plan to address your parish’s chronic economic plight. Imagine knowing that the folks in Baton Rouge never give you a fleeting thought.
As Mann correctly points out, poverty is not intractable. There are policies proven to make a difference, such as a stronger minimum wage, a more equitable tax code and stronger public investments in child care, education and health care, that Louisiana could adopt. We have a choice.
Business for Medicaid expansion
A leading business organization is throwing its support behind efforts to extend Medicaid coverage to low-income Louisiana adults. The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) released its platform of six policy areas for the next governor to focus on, which includes the following recommendation: ”Protect access of health care for Louisiana’s workforce, including fully funding public-private hospital partnerships and expanding access to Medicaid”
State healthcare reforms have been positive but face funding uncertainty this fiscal year and for the future. The strongest path to financial stability would come from expanded coverage self-funded by hospitals. Along with the need to stabilize the area’s healthcare delivery market following the closure of the ER in Mid-City, access to affordable healthcare is also a major economic issue. By bringing billions of dollars of federal investment to the state, expanding Medicaid eligibility will bring thousands of jobs and provide coverage for thousands of workers in the Capital Region…
Given the economic case for Medicaid expansion, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the business community is finally on board after years of silence. As our research has shown, most of the Louisianans who would gain coverage are workers, making Medicaid expansion an important investment in a healthier workforce. By our estimate, Medicaid already supports 50,000 health-care jobs statewide, and that number stands to increase when state policymakers take advantage of this coverage opportunity.
Building a proactive EITC campaign
The Hatcher Group will be hosting a webinar next Tuesday on state Earned Income Tax Credit campaigns. LBP’s director of policy and outreach, Ashley Herad, will be one of the presenters:
This has been a landmark year for Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) action in the states. But enacting new state EITCs, or expanding or protecting existing ones doesn’t happen overnight. Hear from advocates in three states: Louisiana, Montana and Rhode Island, on how they waged proactive campaigns to build support for the EITC among both Republican and Democratic legislatures. Learn new tactics for influencing policymakers and engaging voters around the EITC in your state, and explore best practices for keeping the credit relevant pre- and post-legislative session. Each state’s presentation will be followed by a brief Q&A session.
Click here for more information and to register.
Number of the Day
48.1 percent – Share of African-American children in Louisiana who live in poverty, compared to just 14.7 percent of white children (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)