NEW ORLEANS – The five states along the Gulf of Mexico lag behind much of the nation in measures of poverty, racial disparities and treatment of immigrants, a study released Thursday at Loyola University says.
The first "JustSouth Index" was compiled by the Jesuit Social Research Institute at the private, Jesuit university in New Orleans.
The index ranks Louisiana lower than all other states and the District of Columbia. Mississippi was 50th; Texas, 49th; and Alabama, 48th.
Florida fares somewhat better with an overall position of 41, thanks to higher rankings in measures of racial disparity and immigrant treatment than its Southern counterparts.
While Thursday's report focuses on the Gulf region, it ranks all of the states and Washington D.C.
Vermont holds the highest ranking, followed by New Hampshire and Hawaii.
The study's poverty measures included average household income, health insurance coverage for the poor and housing affordability.
Racial disparity rankings take into account the degree of public school desegregation in each state, as well as wage and employment differences among the races.
Under the heading of immigrant exclusion are measures of health coverage for immigrants, percentages of immigrants age 18-25 who are neither in school nor employed and the percentage of immigrants who have difficulty speaking English.
The report concludes that less federal oversight of school desegregation over the years has led to what it calls "significant backsliding."
"This trend toward re-segregation represents an injustice because it often means minorities are concentrated in schools that have fewer resources and face challenges attracting and retaining quality teachers," it says.
The report also offers suggested remedies in each category. They include redrawing school district lines and allowing more inter- and intra-district transfers in areas where segregation seems to be entrenched. The report also calls for more resources for schools serving larger numbers of minority students.
Some of the issues overlap. For instance, ensuring equal access to quality public education for minority children is among the remedies listed in a section of the report on job and income disparities.
The report on the JustSouth Index said the institute drew inspiration from the Human Development Index created by the United Nations in 1990. "Like the HDI, this index is intended to stimulate dialogue, foster accountability, and shape solutions," the report said.
Loyola University New Orleans Jesuit Social Research Institute