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La. moves to 46th in ‘quality of life’

24th June 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Christopher Tidmore
Contributing Writer

It has long been the author’s contention — and trademarked comment—that Louisiana is a failure at everything but living, but, boy, do we know how to live!

There is a quality of life, particularly in New Orleans, matchless elsewhere. Our “laissez bon temps rouler” zest may be unquantifiable, yet a new national study by the Social Science Research Council does confirm that the Louisiana has improved in its concrete rankings post-Katrina—at least when compared to other states. For African Americans, though, metrics remain where they were in the 1980s, in most areas.

Rising life expectancy, general health, and education metrics over a 10-year period through 2010 helped the Pelican State move up to No. 46 on the Measure of America state rankings released last week by the SSRC. Louisiana’s Human Development Index, calculated using data to measure well-being in three key areas: life expectancy, educational attainment and median earnings,

In no state, however, do African Americans or Latinos enjoy well-being levels above those of whites or Asian Americans. Blacks live shortest lives; though, in a bright spot, Black educational outcomes and earnings do exceed those of both Latinos and Native Americans.

The rankings are compiled using 2010 data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other federal agencies. The U.S. average Human Development Index is 5.03. With a 4.12 index, Louisiana remains in the bottom 10 states in the new rankings, but its position is improved. Joking aside, it’s not just Mississippi lower on the list. Arkansas, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Alabama, also rank behind in ascending order.

When using 2000 data, Louisiana stood at No. 48, with a 3.84 index score. Since then, the Pelican State state has registered a slight improvement, going from 48 to 46.

Between 2000 and 2010, Louisiana’s life expectancy increased from 74.3 years to 75.7, while its share of residents with at least a high school diploma increased from 74.8 percent to 81.9 percent. The percentage of people in the state with a graduate degree increased from 6.5 percent to seven percent during that same time, and the state’s overall health index also improved. Median earnings in Louisiana, however, decreased slightly during the decade, from $26,854 to $26,566 (both figures in 2010 dollars). With a 6.17 Human Development Index score, Connecticut is the top-ranked state in this year’s rankings. At 3.81, Mississippi is ranked last—as it was with data from 2000.

Frighteningly, though, despite gains in health and education, growth in earnings— the wages and salaries of the typical worker—has been anemic. The Great Recession that started in December 2007 undoubtedly pulled wages downward, but the trend of declining earnings was already in place before the onset of the financial crisis. The typical American earned $2,200 less in 2010 than in 2000. Whites saw the greatest earnings drop between 2000 and 2010, nearly $2,300.

Asian Americans (7.21) hold the top racial/ethnic score on the American HD Index, followed by Caucasians (5.43), Latinos (4.05), African Americans (3.81), and Native Americans (3.55).

Blacks, in general and across the country despite economic gains and the growth of the African-American middle class, in other words, still have the same quality of life as the average Mississippian.

This article originally published in the June 24, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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