Rural poverty presents challenges for La.

News Release Distributed 02/18/11

Experts call it “poverty of place” and explain that it occurs because of circumstances that exist in particular locations. The poverty is found mostly in the hearts of inner cities or in remote rural areas.

The United States has 382 counties with “persistent poverty,” where 20 percent of the population has been at or below the poverty threshold for the past 50 years, said Bruce Weber of Oregon State University. They include one out of five of the most remote counties in the country.

Poverty in rural areas presents special concerns in the context of the social safety net, Weber said at a recent conference sponsored by the LSU AgCenter and the Southern Regional Science Association.

“Poverty is a symptom of a set of many problems,” said Matt Fannin of the LSU AgCenter Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness.

“Louisiana is not immune to persistent poverty,” Fannin said.” We have been challenged for generations, both rural and urban.”

Rural poverty presents significant challenges to Louisiana, and rural development is an important of the LSU AgCenter’s mission, said chancellor Bill Richardson.

Among the issues Louisiana faces are shortcomings in modern communication services, education, jobs and health care, Richardson said.

“The AgCenter works with local people,” he said. “Health care is important and is lacking in many areas. Obesity also is a problem. Teenage obesity in the Delta is almost epidemic, and it’s economically critical to our state.”

Causes of poverty include inadequate education, poor health, poor family life and restricted opportunities in jobs, education, transportation and public services, Weber said. Some government policies also reduce incentives.

The highest poverty rates are in areas that are the least populous and farthest from urban centers, he said. Poverty rates are lower in metropolitan areas of 50,000 people or more.

Place does matter. Where people live includes their natural environment, the local economic structure and the availability of jobs. These problems are compounded by distance from urban areas.

“If you live in a place where there are no jobs, you’re at a huge disadvantage,” Weber said. Rural areas have more unemployment, more part-time jobs and lower wages. These factors are joined by barriers to employment in rural areas that include lack of child care and transportation.

“People who work full time at minimum wage don’t make enough to move their families out of poverty,” he said. He pointed out that 63 percent of poor households in the United States have at least one worker, and 72 percent of people in poor families with children work.

“Most people who enter poverty are in for a short time, but many people who are in poverty at any time are in the middle of a long spell,” Weber said.

A lot of people move in and out of poverty, he said. The safety net addresses those people but not the people who are in long term. Almost one-half of the people in poverty are there less than one year, but 12 percent are in poverty for 10 years or more.

Rick Bogren

2/18/2011 3:29:57 AM
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