Nearly dead last in the welfare of children, the annual bad grade that Louisiana receives in the Kids Count survey might very well be passed off as just another comment on the profound impact of poverty.
For 10 years in a row, though, Louisiana has been next to last — do we hear a “Thank you, Lord, for Mississippi”? — and the trend lines have not been dreadfully encouraging even as the post-Katrina stimulus for the state’s economy boosted our economic performance relative to other states.
The slight improvements in the ratings, including what we see as the major indicator of percentage of children living in poverty, might very well not last.
As the rest of the nation recovers from recession, Louisiana’s advantage economically is shown to be relative.
We try to be more optimistic, but the Kids Count ratings — compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, of Baltimore — provide a snapshot of not just where society is now, but where we are headed as a state.
Living on less than $22,000 a year, which is about the federal poverty line for a family of four, is bound to be a challenge. With unemployment rising — the national recovery has been as uncertain here as it has been in most places — the data from 2000 to 2009 in Louisiana might give a false image of improvement.
The percentage of children in poverty at 24 percent cannot be cause for celebration: Those families are stressed significantly, and the well-being of their children in all sorts of ways is likely to be worse as the years go on. Less money means less of most things in our society.
So take the long view of the children in poor families who in just a few years might very well swell the other statistics in the Kids Count survey, such as dropouts and teen pregnancies and on and on.
That is not an encouraging prospect.
Taking an even longer view, the head of the Casey foundation pointed out that since World War II, America has made great progress in providing more support for poor families, particularly black children who before the war often were in greatly substandard schools or not in school at all.
Nevertheless, said Patrick McCarthy of the foundation, the challenge remains to “find the will to make sound investments that can improve the economic prospects for families today while preparing our children for the future.”
In Louisiana, that’s not just a challenge. It’s an imperative.