A new “Kids Count” report produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation spells out more bad, “bottom-of-the-barrel” news for Mississippi. Very nearly half of all 20- to 24-year olds are unemployed in the Magnolia State, the worst rate in the nation. The employment rate for 16- to 19-year olds is only 23 percent, lower than the national average, if not quite the lowest in the nation.
This isn’t just bad news for Mississippi’s young adults and near-adults. It’s bad news for everybody and for our common future. The unemployed can’t pay payroll taxes, can’t buy goods and services, can’t contribute much to their communities. At the same time, their need for support puts pressure on already over-stretched systems. We can’t look forward to a better day when the foundation of our future is crumbling.
What’s at fault? Trot out the usual litany of woes – poor education, poor health and inaccessible health care, a stubbornly weak economy, high school dropout and teen pregnancy rates, disorganized and resource-deprived communities, poverty creating poverty.
Fingers can be pointed every which way, but the bottom line is that our perpetually impoverished “bottom state” status is killing our future and creating a state of perpetual crisis. Something’s got to change, and fast.