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BILL CRAWFORD — Studies show that where you live matters


Where you live matters, they say.

Let’s start with this from USA Today. “In a capitalist economy, like that of the United States, some level of income inequality is to be expected. In recent years, however, the increasing consolidation of wealth in the hands of a few has gone beyond what many Americans deem to be justified or morally acceptable. According to a recent report published by the New York-based financial firm JPMorgan Chase, the wealthiest 10% of American households control nearly 75% of household net worth.”

USA Today said that 24/7 Wall St reviewed over 3,000 U.S. counties and county equivalents to identify the 25 counties in America with the widest income gaps. Mississippi has four of them. Here’s some of the blurb on each:

Walthall (#6) – One in five households earns less than $10,000 a year, one of the largest such shares of any U.S. county, while 1.7% of households earn $200,000 or more. Of the nearly one in five adults who have no high school diploma, 45.2% live below the poverty line. 

Holmes (#11) – Due to widespread financial insecurity, Holmes ranks among the worst counties to live in. Over 45% of residents live below the poverty line, and nearly 30% earn less than $10,000 a year. Low educational attainment — the median annual income of the 25% of adults with no high school diploma is just $17,143.

Leflore (#18) – Like Holmes, due to widespread financial hardship, Leflore ranks among the worst counties to live in. Nearly one in four households earn less than $10,000 a year, “nearly the largest share of any U.S. county or county equivalent.”

Winston (#25) – 3% of households earn $200,000 or more per year. Low income households lie in close proximity to high income households. More than one in four residents live below the poverty line, and 23.9% rely on SNAP benefits.

A follow-up USA Today story showed “the worst county to live in each state” based on poverty, education, and life expectancy. Mississippi’s winner – Holmes County.  

Then, there’s this.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported, “People living just a few blocks apart may have vastly different opportunities to live a long life in part because of their neighborhood.” The Foundation in partnership with the National Center for Health Statistics released data that lets you see your life expectancy based on your neighborhood. Enter your home address at https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/interactives/whereyouliveaffectshowlongyoulive.html and see life expectancy for your neighborhood, your county, your state, and the nation.  

The life expectancy for one neighborhood near me is 68 years while another is 81. My county average was 74.9 years, Mississippi’s 74.7, and the nation’s 78.6. “The data makes it possible to understand how much our health is influenced by conditions where we live,” says the foundation. 

A study by the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program reported your neighborhoods proximity to jobs “can influence a range of economic and social outcomes from local fiscal health to the employment prospects of residents.” In particular the study found, that job proximity was significantly lower for residents of high-poverty and majority-minority neighborhoods. “Overall, 61% of high-poverty tracts (with poverty rates above 20 percent) and 55% of majority-minority neighborhoods experienced declines in job proximity between 2000 and 2012.”

Lots of info. There’s more. But no real surprises for us used-to-it Mississippians. 


Crawford is a syndicate columnist from Meridian.


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About Bill Crawford