Via Sam Smith, this important insight from “Facing South:”

According to new figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau, our country still has a poverty problem: over 38 million U.S. Americans live below the poverty line, 13.3% of the population.

What’s striking is how completely the South dominates the list of states ravaged by poverty. Despite all those banks in Charlotte and all that Coke in Atlanta, eleven of the 15 states with the highest poverty rates are in the South:


1 – Mississippi, 21%
2 – Louisiana, 20.2%

3 – New Mexico, 18.4%
4 – District of Columbia, 18.3%
5 – West Virginia, 18%
6 – Texas, 17.5%
7 – Arkansas, 17.2%
8 – Alabama, 16.9%
8 – Kentucky, 16.9%
10 – Oklahoma, 16.4%
11 – Tennessee, 15.6%
11 – South Carolina, 15.6%
13 – North Carolina, 14.9%

14 – Montana, 14.6%
15 – Georgia, 14.5%

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Or another way to look at it: every Southern state except Florida and Virginia fall in the bottom 15.

Some say the South is losing its regional distinctiveness in today’s homogenized world. But the above statistics may point to another conclusion: the South still has defining features, and one of the big ones is poverty.

Where are Grist and Sightline Institute? Seattle. Where are Redefining Progress and Ella Baker Institute? Bay Area.

Where are the big and growing states that are going to determine the national averages throughout the 21st Century? With the exception of California, they’re pretty much in the South.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Looking over that list, what connects the “nonsouthern” states of NM and MT? They are both “natural resource” states with significant numbers of native Americans. In other words, in many respects they are much like the states of the old South as well — states with a thin slice of white elites profiting off the labor of a large class of darker skinned peoples.

Who/where are the environmental powerhouses of the south?

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!