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Myths of Mississippi: Why are we 50 on the national poverty rate?

Mississippi brings up the tail end on a lot of lists, some which are not so flattering, like being ranked 50 on the national poverty rate. 

With that ranking come a lot of questions as to why we are here. With rumors, myths, and just flat out lies circulating Rep. Joel Bomgar of District 58, decided to start an initiative called Out of Last Place. It is a partnership of business leaders that are determined to get Mississippi “out of last place” forever.

“I realized in talking to people that there was just a lot of things people believe about Mississippi that just aren’t true. So, if we are going to figure out how to set a trajectory that will result in us climbing the economic ranking than we have to start by being truthful about why we are where we are,” said Bomgar.

One of those rumors is that Mississippi is in last place because of the Delta.

Bomgar said that the Delta isn’t even the weakest link in the chain that leads us to number 50. He said if you look a the gap between Mississippi and West Virginia, which is number 49, the state would have to close a $4.8 billion income gap that would be needed to pass 49 according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Getting rid of the Delta wouldn’t even make a dent in that gap with only 10 percent of the state’s population.

“It’s actually been true for the entire time series since the data has been collected that whether the Delta was in Mississippi or not in Mississippi we would have ranked 50th regardless,” said Bomgar.

He said if you run the data with or without government transfer payments in the Delta area, the movement for the state per-capita income as a whole does not move enough to get us out of 50.

“76 of our 82 counties rank lower than West Virginia. There are 50 counties outside of the Delta that has a lower per-capita income is rate,” said Bomgar.

On the Out of Last Place website you can generate a “what if” scenario to find out what it would take to get Mississippi out of last place if education, economics, wages and salary, or even employment rates were to change.

 

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