Louisiana by the numbers

Louisiana by the numbers

The past month has seen a wealth of new data chronicling how Louisiana compares to other states on a range of economic indicators. Most of the news is bad.

Number of the Day

58 - Women murdered by men in Louisiana in 2016. The state is among the top 10 for violence against women for the eighth year in a row (Source: Violence Policy Center via Associated Press)

The past month has seen a wealth of new data chronicling how Louisiana compares to other states on a range of economic indicators. Most of the news is bad. Hunger and poverty, especially among children, remain unacceptably high. The state’s crime rate is among the nation’s highest, and Louisiana is less prepared than any other state to cope with the next recession. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte rounds it all up in her weekly column, which also includes some good news.  

New federal figures show personal income in Louisiana grew faster than nearly every other state in the second quarter of 2018. Louisiana’s 5.9 percent growth rate was above the national average of 4.2 percent. Economists say Louisiana is moving past its own recession and showing improvement. While Louisiana’s unemployment rate remains among the highest in the nation, it is well below the 8.4 percent jobless rate the state reached in November 2010 at the peak of the recession. The Census numbers, meanwhile, showed a significant drop in Louisiana’s percentage of people without health insurance. Louisiana’s uninsured rate fell to 8.4 percent in 2017, lower than the 8.7 percent national average – and nearly cut in half from the state’s 16.6 percent uninsured rate in 2013.

 

The bail system is broken
In New Orleans – and elsewhere in Louisiana – people who are accused of crimes often languish in jail for no other reason than lacking the money needed to post bail. It’s a broken system that serves the private bail bonds industry very well, but does little or nothing to promote public safety. Two players for the 3-1 New Orleans Saints, Demario Davis and Benjamin Watson, recently spent time in some local courtrooms to see the process up close – and came away disillusioned. Writing in Nola.com/The Times-Picayune:

We felt overwhelming sadness walking out of that courthouse.  We bore witness to how money bail separated fathers and mothers from children because of poverty.  Both would suffer. And we felt anger watching so many in shackles processed through the system in rapid succession, accused, but not convicted of a crime.  And we felt relief. There by the grace of God go I. Not only does the system punish poverty, it is also rigged. In New Orleans, people pay $6.4 million to the money bail system.  Of that, $4.7 million goes to commercial bail bond companies, to whom families pay a percentage of the set bail in exchange for the company’s promise to pay the rest if the individual charged doesn’t show up to court. Those companies never pay it back, even if the person always shows up to court, even when the case resolves, even if the person is innocent.  Black people pay most of that money.

 

Voting with their feet
As the Baby Boom generation enters its peak retirement years, these should theoretically be good times for the nursing home industry. But the opposite is increasingly true, as seniors around the country are choosing home- and community-based options for long-term care over institutions. The New York Times’ Paula Span reports that national occupancy rates have dropped from 87 percent in 2011 to 81.7 percent now, and that the trend shows no signs of abating.

As their operators sometimes say themselves, they’re selling a product nobody wants to buy.“You have increased alternatives, like assisted living, and other ways for people to stay at home,” said Ruth Katz, senior vice president of public policy at Leading Age, which represents nonprofit senior service providers. “When people find community alternatives, they use them whenever possible.” Federal policy has helped propel this shift. For years, advocates protested that Medicaid covered care in nursing homes but not in the places people much preferred to live. Congress paid attention and passed legislation in 2005. Thirty years ago, 90 percent of Medicaid dollars for long-term care flowed to institutions and only 10 percent to home- and community-based services. Now, the proportions have flipped, and nursing homes get only 43 percent of Medicaid’s long-term care expenditures.

Louisiana nursing homes are 77 percent occupied, according to data from 2016 from the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the occupancy rate is likely to keep falling as the state moves to comply with a federal legal settlement that resulted from a finding that people with mental illness were being warehoused in nursing homes instead of letting them live in less restrictive community settings.

 

Common Core and student privacy
A state law that sprung from concerns about the Common Core state education standards is complicating efforts by the Board of Regents to study the effects of LSU’s new admission policy. As The Advocate’s Mark Ballard reports, the student privacy law championed by then-Rep. John Schroder forbids the sharing of student data without parental permission. Four years later, the law is making it harder for the Board of Regents to track the academic progress of students admitted to LSU under a new policy that disregards standardized test scores such as the ACT.

Regents wanted to know if the LSU applicants who failed to meet the admissions criteria performed well in college or if they slowed down other students. If some of those admitted by exception had lower grade-point averages because they took much harder courses, like calculus instead of general math. Or if there were extenuating circumstances in high school that account for lower ACT test scores. Identifying the factors that predict how a student will do in college wasn’t part of the audit plan. “Why aren’t we looking deeper?” asked Regent Edward D. Markle, a New Orleans attorney. “Clearly we need standards and we also need to know what happened in the past. … Isn’t there information out there for us to grab that we would allow us a better understanding of performance?” Well, no, replied Deputy Commissioner Larry Tremblay. In fact, the Regents had been specifically forbidden from accessing high school transcripts and student data by Schroder’s privacy law.

 

Number of the Day
58 – Women murdered by men in Louisiana in 2016. The state is among the top 10 for violence against women for the eighth year in a row (Source: Violence Policy Center via Associated Press)