Mark Gongloff of Huffington Post has analyzed a new Census Bureau report that measures changes in areas with concentrated poverty and found that the South doing abysmally. Concentrated poverty areas are places where more than 20% of the population lives below the official poverty line, which in the 48 mainland states is $23,850 for a family of four. Nearly a third of all Southerners live in such dirt-poor communities; from 2000-2010, the South accounted for five of the six states with the biggest percentage increases in total poverty area residency. Poverty in North Carolina alone grew by a shocking 17.9%. The Midwest saw the largest net increases, but overall still fall far short of Southern levels.
In percentage terms, much of the South is a poverty-ridden wasteland.
In fact, just about every marker for quality of life is markedly lower in the South. Take minimum wages, for example. For all the talk about individual responsibility and hard work, state governments throughout the South don’t seem to think paying workers equitably is something they need to do.
Image credit: Department of Labor
The South also has low economic mobility, high rates of obesity and smoking, massive loss of federal funds thanks to refusing Medicaid expansion, and the highest rates of teen births. So that might explain why most of the Southern states ranked among the lowest in a Gallup poll that ranked the states according to their self-reported happiness.
Image credit: Gallup
What’s more, the South is highly dependent on federal money just to get by. South Carolina, for example, receives an astonishing $7.87 “return on investment” in federal funding for every dollar in federal taxes paid. Florida gets $4.57. Alabama takes $3.28, while Louisiana takes $3.35. If the federal government accepted what their Southern state legislatures wanted and backed off, it would result in the disintegration of public services throughout the region. This isn’t tax-and-spend economics at work, it’s life support. Generations of conservative rule have wrecked the South, and if anything the problem seems like it will get worse well before it gets better.