It's About Children, Stupid!

Samuel Johnson said, "A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization." In that case, our state may have a ways to go on the road to civilization. The Annie E. Casey Foundation released the newest Kids Count report June 11 showing that, once again, Mississippi resides close to the bottom in most categories. Some of these, like poverty, are on a national upswing. Twenty-one percent of all children in America live in poverty-ridden conditions, a higher rate than in 1975.

But in Mississippi even more of our kids are poor; over 43 percent of our children live in high-poverty neighborhoods, where 20 percent or more of the population is below the poverty line, as defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budgets.

(Keep in mind that these figures do not take into account the geographic differences in cost-of-living expenses.)

The figures, broken down further by county, shows where the biggest problems are. A gaping poverty gap exists right here in metro Jackson, leaving too many of the weakest members of our society in need.

In Hinds County, only 66 percent of kids graduate from high school, compared to 87 percent in Rankin and 85 percent in Madison. Hinds County also has the highest rate of teen deaths by accident, homicide or suicide at 14 in 2001, compared to 22 other counties that have none. Seventy-two percent of school-aged children are eligible for free or reduced price lunches in Hinds, compared 37 percent in Rankin and 45 percent in Madison.

Our state will never better itself until we improve the lives of our children. Let's start today.


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