State of the South

Max Rose, the Autry Fellow at MDC, a nonprofit based in Durham, N.C., has an interesting opinion piece in a recent Tennessean.

TN, South hurt more than most
The South can be a prosperous region, thriving with a new generation of industry replacing textile mills and other low-wage, low-skill employers while providing jobs to a well-educated work force.

Or, the South can be a region in decline, short-changing its would-be job creators and skilled workers and missing the opportunity to create a new economy.

That’s the inescapable message in the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent poverty data, which show that while people are hurting throughout the country, half of the Americans who sank into poverty from 2009 to 2010 were in the South. Of the 2.6 million additional people in poverty, fully 1.5 million are in the South. This recession has been especially harsh on cities and among African-Americans and Latinos, who make up nearly a majority of our people under 15 years old:

More than 1 million young people have fallen into poverty in the South since 2007. About one in four children under 18 now live below the poverty line, including 377,000 in Tennessee.

Poverty in the South is growing fastest among African-Americans and Hispanics. In Tennessee, 29 percent of African-Americans and 34 percent of Hispanics now live below the poverty line. That’s a 6-percentage-point increase among Hispanics since the recession began.

For the first time, the Census found that fewer than half of Southerners under the age of 15 are non-Hispanic whites.

In the South, less than 35 percent of people at the age of entering the workforce have a degree or certificate beyond high school, compared to 39 percent nationwide. In Tennessee, that figure, at 33.5 percent, is lower than the region’s.

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