Study: Jesuit Social Research Institute Issues Annual JustSouth Index 2019
Annual report spotlights the vulnerability of the region’s population in this time of COVID.
For the fourth consecutive year, Gulf South states rank below average on measures of social justice, namely three challenging issues – poverty, racial disparity and immigrant exclusion.
(New Orleans, LA – November 19, 2020) The JustSouth Index 2019 report released today by the Jesuit Social Research Institute (JSRI) of Loyola University New Orleans reveals that states in the Gulf South of the United States all fall near the bottom of the index on measures of social justice. The annual JustSouth Index measures and compares states’ performance on nine quantitative indicators that fall under three dimensions: poverty, racial disparity and immigrant exclusion. All 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, were scored.
Mississippi comes in last at No. 51, while Louisiana, Texas, and Alabama fall right behind at Nos. 50, 49 and 48, respectively. Florida, another Gulf South state, ranks No. 37. Montana ranks No. 1.
The 2019 JustSouth Index report provides policymakers, businesses, nonprofits, and residents a better understanding of how the people of the Gulf South are faring with regard to basic human rights and needs. It explores racial, income, education and wealth disparities, as well as access to Medicaid or health insurance – issues central to the recent Presidential elections and new Biden/Harris administration. Rooted in Catholic social teaching, the report reflects a commitment to the poor and marginalized, on the premise that by respecting the dignity of all individuals, we protect and advance the common good.
The annual report tracks statistics and performance during the 2019 calendar year, well before stress on lower-income residents, immigrants and minority populations were exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic and global unemployment. As the Supreme Court considers a health insurance mandate provision in the Affordable Care Act, the report reveals – at a bare minimum – the great numbers of Gulf South residents who currently do not have access to private health insurance and rely on Medicaid.
Most important, the 2019 JSRI Just South Index provides general findings for each of the Gulf South states and makes recommendations on strategies that states can take to improve the lives of residents and create a more just, inclusive and equitable society.
Key recommendations, from state to state, range from raising the minimum wage and expanding various tax credit programs – to extending Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to include all households with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level and educating all residents about the various benefits available to them via the ACA.
“The annual JustSouth Index serves as a measure of social justice examining key dimensions that must be addressed to improve lives and enhance human dignity,” said the Rev. Fred Kammer, S.J., J.D., JSRI’s executive director and a nationally recognized leader in matters of social justice and Catholic social teaching. “Our purposes are to educate the people of this region and to point out how we together can make the kind of changes that promote far greater social justice, equity, and inclusion for all of us who live here.”
“While the Gulf South states currently rank low in the Index, it is well within the power and the duty of leaders and citizens in those states to change the current reality,” said Dennis Kalob, JSRI economy policy specialist. “Improving a state’s ranking on the indicators, dimension indices, and the overall JustSouth Index will require that policymakers, advocates, philanthropists, business, labor and community leaders, and citizens take action to work for policy and program changes that will more justly distribute opportunity and resources to all in society. In turn, they will serve the common good and create greater solidarity among residents of each state.”