Louisiana continues to suffer from a persistent poverty rate within 24 of its 35 nonmetro parishes. Since 1970, 20 percent or more of the population in these parishes have fallen below the poverty line. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines these as persistent poverty parishes. All but three of these parishes are also designated as black high poverty parishes by the USDA. This means that within those parishes more than half of the poor population is black. Seven of the nonmetro parishes also fall into the USDA’s category as housing stress parishes. Housing in these parishes fails to meet any one of four qualities by (a) lacking complete plumbing, (b) lacking complete kitchen facilities, (c) having rent or owner’s costs more than 30 percent of the household income or (d) having more than one person per room. The root of poverty cannot be derived by any single function; therefore, fighting poverty is addressed by promoting education and economic development. Community development strategies that are multi-faceted are generally more successful than those that focus on only one approach.
(This article appeared in the fall 2005 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)