Poverty and Alton Sterling

Poverty and Alton Sterling

While the Daily Dime took its annual summer break, racial tensions roiled our home base of Baton Rouge after the video of a fatal shooting by police of a black man outside a convenience store made international news.

Poverty and Alton Sterling

While the Daily Dime took its annual summer break, racial tensions roiled our home base of Baton Rouge after the video of a fatal shooting by police of a black man outside a convenience store made international news. As Southern University law professor (and LBP Board member) Christopher Odinet reminds us, the endemic poverty in North Baton Rouge played a key role in creating the conditions that led to the turmoil. Writing for Counterpunch:  

The reason for these troubles has to do with years of economic neglect and bad policymaking—forces that have caused this important part of the city, like so many black communities, to slide into poverty. And the connection between Alton Sterling and the economics of North Baton Rouge is this—the anxiety being felt between members of the black community and police is deeply intertwined with the economic distress of North Baton Rouge itself. Indeed, black communities across the United States have felt the strain of economic decline for decades now.

One ray of hope comes from the hundreds of thousands of Louisianans signing up for Medicaid coverage. The Nola.com editorial page notes that enrollment is outpacing predictions, and that’s good news for workers in the construction and restaurant industries, among others.

Louisiana historically has a high rate of chronic diseases. In 2003, the Milken Institute found 2.5 million cases of cancers, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, mental disorders and pulmonary conditions in our state. That led to $17.4 billion in economic losses because of sick days and reduced productivity, the report said. The Medicaid expansion should help reduce those kinds of costs and make Louisiana a healthier state. With 250,000 new patients already added to Medicaid, some financial savings should start to show up right away for individuals and for the state.


Jobs data shows need for minimum wage, EITC

The Louisiana Workforce Commission recently updated its analysis of where the state’s workforce is headed – and which occupations are likely to produce the most new jobs in the coming years. As LBP’s senior policy analyst, Nick Albares, notes in a blog, five of the 10 occupations projected to add the most jobs by 2024 pay wages that won’t keep a family of four above the poverty line. And that, in turn, shows why it’s so important to promote work-support policies.

An increase in the minimum wage works best in tandem with an increase in the EITC, providing two complementary mechanisms for making work pay. Growing evidence indicates that not only does the EITC encourage and reward work, but the income that low-income working families receive from the credit is also linked to improvements in maternal and infant health, better school performance among children, higher college enrollment, and increased work effort and earnings when the children reach adulthood.


Tuition hikes coming at LSU

If it’s summer in Louisiana, that means tuition and fees must be going up at the state’s public colleges and universities. As The Advocate’s Rebekah Allen points out, higher education institutions have increasingly come to rely on students for tuition and fee dollars as state support continues to dwindle. In the upcoming academic year that translates to an extra $838 for students at LSU, though students at other schools will be less affected.

Monturios Howard, a political science and African American studies senior at LSU, said he doesn’t receive TOPS, so he’s felt the brunt of continuous tuition and fee hikes in recent years. Howard has taken out loans and works 40 hours a week as a manager at Chick-fil-A to help cover his costs, while managing to keep his grades up and stay involved in school organizations like Student Government. That means sometimes he gets home from work at 11 p.m. and does schoolwork deep into the night. Howard said his primary concern is that continued increases in tuition will keep lower-income, predominantly minority students out of schools like LSU. “It’s going to make for a less diverse university,” he said. “You have to remember that poverty disproportionately affects minorities.”

A SNAPpier way to use food stamps

Starting this fall, a new pilot program will allow some food stamp (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients to use online grocery stores. The Washington Post’s editorial page notes that even though this won’t work for everyone (many low-income people lack internet access) it could also help reduce the barriers to healthy eating faced by many who rely on SNAP.

Low-income shoppers struggle to find affordable, high-quality food: About 11.5 million poor Americans — many without a car — live at least one mile from the nearest supermarket in food deserts home to some of the highest levels of obesity in the country. That can prevent some shoppers from getting out of the house to grocery stores. The closest stores often stock their shelves with a limited — and often unhealthy — slate of items. Low-income people are already at an above-average risk for chronic health problems. The challenge to eat well and affordably at the same time does not help.


Number of the Day

11.4 – Percentage change in Louisiana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from 2008-15, the lowest among six Southern states (Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi). (Source: LBP analysis of Bureau of Economic Analysis data)