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Report: Gulf States in U.S. Lag Behind in Social Justice

U.S. Gulf States lag behind most of the U.S. in social justice, according to the JustSouth Index 2017, a publication of the Jesuit Social Research Institute (JSRI) of Loyola University New Orleans released on May 3.

The index was created by JSRI “to take stock of important social justice-related indicators and to take action to create a more socially just society,” specifically measuring levels of poverty, racial disparity and immigrant exclusion.

This is the second year of publication, which ranks all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., and seeks to “stimulate dialogue, foster accountability and shape solutions.”

The Gulf States – Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas – were among the lowest U.S. states in terms of how well they addressed these measures of justice in 2017.

Florida received the highest ranking among the Gulf States at 35th (up from 41st in 2016). Mississippi ranked 46th (up from 50th), followed by Alabama (47th, up from 48th), Texas (49th, same) and Louisiana (51st, same).

“The Gulf South states are among the worst performing states in the poverty dimension; Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama rank near the bottom in the racial disparity dimension; and Texas, Louisiana and Alabama rank poorly in the immigrant exclusion dimension,” the report said.

States are ranked based on nine criteria (three for each category):

  • Poverty: Average income of poor households, health insurance coverage for the poor and housing affordability.
  • Racial disparity: Public school integration, white-minority wage equity and white-minority employment equity.
  • Immigrant exclusion: Immigrant youth outcomes, immigrant English proficiency and health insurance coverage for immigrants.

While some Gulf States fared better than others on individual measures, collectively they were better than the national averages in only two categories in 2017.

Poverty:

  • Average income of poor household: $15,384 (US); $12,790 (Gulf States).
  • Percent of poor without health insurance: 18.7 percent (US); 29.6 percent (Gulf States).
  • Percent of poor with high housing cost burden: 67.8 percent (US); 64.4 percent (Gulf States).

Racial disparity:

  • Percent of segregated schools: 13.8 percent (US); 16.5 percent (Gulf States).
  • White-minority wage gap (percent difference in earnings): 6.1 percent (US); 13.6 percent (Gulf States).
  • White-minority unemployment gap (percent difference in employment): 2.5 percent (US); 3.2 percent (Gulf States).

Immigrant exclusion:

  • Share of immigrant disconnected youth (percent of 18- to 25-year-olds not in school and not working): 14.6 percent (US); 15.6 percent (Gulf States)
  • Share of immigrants with difficulty speaking English: 32.6 percent (US); 31 percent (Gulf States).
  • Gap in health insurance rate between immigrant and native-born residents: 13.8 percent (US); 21.26 percent (Gulf States).

“Inclusive economic and social progress is possible if we focus on equity and justice,” said Aliƌ Bustamante, JSRI’s economic policy specialist, in his May 3 remarks announcing the index’s release. “Increasing income equity, access to health insurance coverage, racial equality and community support for immigrants will improve social justice and preserve human dignity.”

The full report is available here. A detailed explanation of the criteria and ranking system can be found on pages 8-14 and page 31.