Wide gap in Louisiana between the rich and the poor
Don Ames Reporting
Louisiana has the third widest gap in the U.S. between the rich and the poor, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation.
And, it would appear that education in the state is a major constraint limiting upward mobility for many households.
The latest numbers from the Census Bureau show only 82 percent of residents over 25 had a high school diploma, and only 22 percent had a college degree.
"Unfortunately, they're not even qualified to go into a trade school, in many respects, because they have to have some kind of a high school diploma or GED before they can even apply for that," says Ivan Miestchovich, Director of the Institute for Economic Development at the University of New Orleans.
He says a lack of education deprives many poor residents of the opportunity to move into the middle class. And, he says the lack of inter-generational upward mobility means those born to poor families are likely to stay poor.
"The educational thing is extremely important to the ability to move up and stay up in the upper realms of income," says Miestchovich.
Though Louisiana's 2010 unemployment rate of 7.5 percent was lower than the national average and lower than many states, 15 percent of residents received food stamps, and the state's median income is lower than all but nine states.
While having high or low median income does not appear to correlate to high income inequality, education does.
"The educational process is directly linked to economic and workforce development across the spectrum," Miestchovich says.
Louisiana also has the fifth highest percentage of residents living below the poverty line, at 18 percent.
"You're always going to have people at the lower end. The issue is, do they have the ability to move themselves back up," adds Miestchovich.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation, Louisiana's median income is $42,505, the country's 10th lowest.
Louisiana is tied for 23rd lowest in households earning $200,000 a year or more, 3.5 percent. But, the state has the fifth highest percentage of population living below the poverty line, at almost 18 percent.
These are the states with the widest gap between rich and poor.
1. New York
Miestchovich says the state's educational system may need reform, but cutting the educational budget creates more problems for the future.
He fears Louisiana has taken financial resources away from areas that correlate to higher educational attainment and higher income.