Report shows Miss. quality-of-life disparities

Published 10:36 pm Tuesday, January 27, 2009

There are stark disparities in the quality of life in Mississippi when comparing counties against each other, a new report says.

Three county groups — Rankin, Madison-Hinds and DeSoto — are far ahead of the rest of the state in well-being.

But residents living in the Mississippi Delta county groups of Washington-Bolivar, Leflore-Sunflower and Panola-Coahoma have existences that reflect some of the world’s poorest countries, according to the report.

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“As a state, Mississippi cannot forge ahead while leaving so many people behind,” said Ray Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, which co-commissioned the report with the Mississippi NAACP.

Offenheiser, during a news conference Monday at the state Capitol, said he hopes the report, “A Portrait of Mississippi,” will help lawmakers develop policies addressing the state’s disparities.

The report evaluates the state’s 82 counties using a human development index, defined as a measure of well-being and opportunity based on health, income and education.

There remains a great divide between the races when it comes to health, education and income.

On average, whites outlive blacks by almost four years, and the average, annual personal income of whites is more than $10,000 higher, the report said.

Overall, the earnings for whites range from $22,000 to $38,000, compared to $13,000 to $25,000 for blacks.

That means the poorest whites are still better off than the majority blacks, said Sarah Burd-Sharps, one of the author’s of the report.

The disparities “show the need for targeted investment,” she said.

Other findings in the report:

— Rankin County had the highest life expectancy at 78.2 years.

— Madison-Hinds had the highest earnings at $31,511 a year and the lowest percentage of adults without a high school diploma at 12.4 percent.

— Washington-Bolivar had the lowest life expectancy at 72.2 years.

— Leflore-Sunflower had the lowest earnings at $16,676 a year.