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Still a long way to go for the lower Mississippi Delta.


It is difficult to separate the demographic, social, and economic changes that have occurred in the Delta. The complex fabric that forms the Delta cannot be broken into parts for simple analysis. Healthcare issues cannot be separated from economic issues, and neither of these issues can be separated from social, political, and other factors of race and power that form the fabric of the Delta. While this analysis disaggregates the data into separate and distinct sections, the reader should be aware of the complex interactions of the performance measures. The clear interaction of health and economic data cannot be overstated and neither can the relationships between education, productivity, employment, income, and social progress. Health is one aspect of investing in human capital and, like education, has its support in the basic mix of public and private goods. Social goods require social investments, and public safety, education, and health are frequent exceptions to the rules of the marketplace. In many areas of the Delta, the allocation of scarce federal and state financial resources to address the problems of the Delta has served to relieve some of the region's distress. The commitment to long-term intervention has, however, varied widely over time.


Preparation for the 2010 Census of the Population is well underway. The initial questionnaires will be sent to all addresses in the nation starting in February 2010. The population data for states will be the first data released in March 2011 for redistricting purposes, and subsequent levels of detailed data will be forthcoming. (1) This timetable corresponds to the next opportunity for researchers to examine the extent of the changes that have taken place in the economic, demographic, and social conditions in the Lower Mississippi Delta. Several decades of progress in the Delta have created expectations of positive growth and increased prosperity for most of the Delta counties. Yet, the Delta has a long and frustrating history of intractable poverty, third-world healthcare, economic malaise, and historic links to the Old South.

The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the economic conditions that impact the Delta and the changes that have occurred since the 1980s. This overview is intended to set the stage for subsequent discussions and research based on the release of 2010 Census data. Many of the programs and initiatives that have taken place over the last three decades were related to improving conditions in the Delta. The work of the Southern Growth Policies Board and the Commission on the Future of the South was based upon an extensive body of re search on issues that represented barriers to the growth and progress of southern states. Subsequent work by the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission was designed to pursue a more thorough analysis of a broad range of social and economic conditions in the Delta.

This report is not intended to provide a comprehensive examination of the volumes of material written about the history, politics, sociology, demography, health, and economic conditions in the Delta. Rather, this analysis simply attempts to capture the essence of two decades of changes in economic conditions in the Delta. Only time will tell if lasting improvements can be made in the Delta's economic climate. The history of the Delta is like gumbo--sticky and difficult to overcome. But, signs of progress continue to appear, and a new evaluation of economic conditions may show some hope of overcoming decades of decay.

Like the River, History Runs Strong and Deep in the Delta

The geographical description of the Delta depends upon the political and economic agendas that are involved. Many researchers and area authors describe only the Mississippi Delta counties as "the Delta" William Percy's description in Lanterns on the Levee is typical of this definition of the Delta. My country is the Mississippi Delta, the river country. It lies flat, like a badly drawn half oval, with Memphis at its northern and Vicksburg at its southern tip. Its western boundary is the Mississippi River, which coils and returns on itself in great loops and crescents, though from the map you would think it ran in a straight line north and south. Every few years it rises like a monster from its bed and pushes over its banks to vex and sweeten the land it has made. For our soil, very dark brown, creamy and sweet-smelling, without substrata of rock or shale, was built up slowly, century after century, by the sediment gathered by the river in its solemn task of cleansing the continent and deposited in annual layers of silt on what must once have been the vast depression between itself and the hills.
   This ancient depression, now filled in and level, is what we call
   the Delta (Percy 1941,3).

Others, including the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission, included counties from the Bootheel of Missouri and the southern tip of Illinois to the rice lands of Arkansas and the fields of West Tennessee south to the Delta counties in Mississippi and Louisiana. Political definitions of the Deltas boundaries are generally intended to maximize political support, but they also reflect a common set of economic and social conditions that afflict the people of the Delta. For example, the Delta Regional Authority's service area includes counties in Alabama that suffer from depressed economic conditions. For purposes of this review, the broadest description used by the Delta Commission is the one utilized in the analysis. The charts and tables are presented to describe conditions in the Lower Mississippi Delta before, during, and after the strong national growth period of the 1990s. The descriptive data for the Delta counties provide some insight into the changes that occurred following one of the nation's strongest periods of economic expansion. Perhaps the contention that a "rising tide raises all boats" can be tested in the Delta.

The Economic History of the Delta

The history of the Delta reflects the region's powerful economic ties to agriculture and the enormous transformations that have taken place in that industry (Maddox, Liebhafsky, Henderson, and Hamlin 1967). While the rural traditions of the Delta mimic those of other rural areas of the nation, the Delta has unique ties to the history, growth patterns, and practices of the Old South (Conkin 1998). The expansion of modern agricultural practices and the displacement of workers from the nation's farms marked a major structural transformation for people living in the Delta. The long-term structural shifts from employment in primary sectors (like agriculture) to employment in secondary sectors (like manufacturing) and then to tertiary sectors (like services) described by the Clark-Fisher hypothesis did occur in many Delta counties (Liner and Lynch 1977). But, many other counties did not pass through the hypothesized development sequence.

In fact, efforts to promote the economic development of Delta counties have generally failed to offset the powerful market forces that influence business decisions. Temporary interruptions of market forces have been caused by government efforts to change the patterns of development. But, those efforts have been marginally successful and have simply tended to postpone the changes dictated by the economy.

A classic case of this scenario was the depression-era efforts of the state of Mississippi to change its economic fortunes by passing the Balance Agriculture with Industry (BAWI) program in 1936 (Cobb 1993, 5). In The Selling of the South, James C. Cobb described the practice of granting public subsidies for commercial and industrial ventures. Even during the depression, the competition for economic opportunities caused communities to provide subsidies for employers. Cobb concluded the following:
   In the long run, subsidies helped to perpetuate the deficiencies
   that, in turn, appeared to justify the continued use of subsidies.
   Still, there is no evidence that the South's economy would have
   grown more rapidly had industry not received concessions and tax
   exemptions. Subsidies or no subsidies, so long as the region lacked
   adequate financial resources, a significant consumer market, and a
   well-trained, productive labor force, developers could hope to
   attract only the same type of low-paying, labor-oriented industries
   that had done little to impair the South's reputation as the
   nation's "number one economic problem" (Cobb 1993, 63).

Community leaders are slow to recognize that market forces operate rationally and that efforts to overcome them may generate temporary gains but not permanent changes to the economic structure of an area. It is difficult to separate the demographic, social, and economic changes that have occurred in the Delta. The complex fabric that forms the Delta cannot be broken into parts for simple analysis. Healthcare issues cannot be separated from economic issues, and neither of these issues can be separated from social, political, and other factors of race and power that form the fabric of the Delta. While this analysis disaggregates the data into separate and distinct sections, the reader should be aware of the complex interactions of the performance measures. The clear interaction of health and economic data cannot be overstated and neither can the relationships between education, productivity, employment, income, and social progress. Health is one aspect of investing in human capital and, like education, has its support in the basic mix of public and private goods. Social goods require social investments, and public safety, education, and health are frequent exceptions to the rules of the marketplace. In many areas of the Delta, the allocation of scarce federal and state financial resources to address the problems of the Delta has served to relieve some of the region's distress. (2) The commitment to longterm intervention has, however, varied widely over time.

Every six years, the Southern Growth Policies Board is required to conduct an analysis of the condition of the region and develop a set of goals and objectives for the Board (Betts 1988, 2). The first Commission on the Future of the South was formed in 1974 by Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia, the second commission was formed in 1980 by Governor Dick Riley of South Carolina, and the third commission was formed in 1986 by Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas. The 1986 commission was chaired by Governor William Winter of Mississippi. The first themes targeted by the commission were equity, internationalization of the southern economy, quality of life, disparities in economic progress, and finally, capital and infrastructural issues. Halfway Home & a Long Way to Go was the first commission report. Ten regional objectives were developed as a result of the commission's work and are as follows:

1. Provide a nationally competitive education for all southern states.

2. Mobilize resources to eliminate adult functional illiteracy.

3. Prepare a flexible, globally competitive workforce.

4. Strengthen society as a whole by strengthening atrisk families.

5. Increase the economic development role of higher education.

6. Increase the South's capacity to generate and use technology.

7. Implement new economic development strategies aimed at home-grown business and industry.

8. Enhance the South's natural and cultural resources.

9. Develop pragmatic leaders with a global vision.

10. Improve the structure and performance of state and local governments (Betts 1988, 8).

Many of these objectives were repeated in the final report of the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission, chaired by Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas and vice chaired by Governor Ray Mabus of Mississippi. The final report, The Delta Initiatives: Realizing the Dream ... Fulfilling the Potential, was sent to President George H. W. Bush on May 14, 1990, and was the outcome of nearly eighteen months of work, with the mission to study and make recommendations regarding economic needs, problems, and opportunities in the Lower Mississippi Delta region and to develop a 10-year regional economic development plan (The Delta Initiatives 1990, 4).

The commission developed the following 12 central themes, many of which overlapped the regional objectives of the Commission on the Future of the South:

1. Develop leadership.

2. Change attitudes regarding tradition and image.

3. Improve education at all levels.

4. Build institutional know-how and capacity.

5. Achieve comprehensive approaches to solving problems.

6. Improve abilities to function in a multicultural society; face race and class problems, and bridge the gap.

7. Build on and protect existing resources.

8. Streamline institutional processes.

9. Increase capital for development.

10. Create and penetrate markets.

11. Improve physical infrastructure.

12. Build technical competence (The Delta Initiatives 1990, 7).

Clearly, achieving success in one or more of these objectives or themes would move the Delta forward. Many efforts have been made to make progress on these goals, but no clear re-examination has been done on evaluating the Deltas progress on these objectives or any others. After the Delta Commission submitted its final report to the President, the Delta was once again left to fail or succeed on its own. Washington lost interest, and the Delta initiatives lost momentum. Some efforts were made during President Clinton's term to move projects forward, especially transportation projects that would aid the Delta over the long run. Perhaps the most significant event during that time was the strong growth of the economy. Trickledown economics works as long as strong growth is evident at the national level as it was during many years in the 1990s. The economic progress of the Delta shown in this article is evidence that even the most impoverished parts of the nation can show progress if the economic forces are powerful enough.

The post-2000 period was not consistent with the strong economic growth or job growth necessary for the trickle down to have much impact on the Delta. With anemic employment and income growth and the Great Recession of 20072009, it will be interesting to see if the positive movements that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s will be repeated in the latest decade. A logical hypothesis would be that the economic gains slowed dramatically and in some cases slipped into negative territory. It is difficult for the Delta to prosper when the nation is not prospering.

Income Levels Have Increased Dramatically in the Delta, But Poverty Levels Remain High

Although recognizing the areas assets, the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission (1989) concluded the following:
   ... the Delta is also a land of hardship and poverty. According
   to the 1980 census, extreme poverty afflicted
   20.9 percent of the region's residents; in the Appalachian
   region, however, only 17 percent of the residents
   fell below the poverty level. African Americans and
   households headed by women in the Delta experienced
   even higher poverty rates of 41.6 percent each.
   And Tunica County, Mississippi, qualified as the poorest
   county in the nation with a 52.9 percent poverty
   rate according to the same census (p. 3).

With this long-standing record of low income levels, high poverty rates, and persistent income inequality, the Delta counties have had nowhere to go but up. When on the bottom rung of the economic ladder, even the most impoverished counties could expect to improve over time, and improve they did.

The following data tables and maps highlight the basic measures of economic performance that are available for the Delta counties. They provide the reader with a cross-sectional view of the changes that have occurred since 1980. (3) While the basic data sets include measures of income, poverty, employment, unemployment, population, and educational achievement, the analysis does not mean to ignore other complementary issues such as productivity, health, public safety, migration, displacement, tax burdens, and economic development initiatives. (4)

Nearly all of the Delta counties experienced decreases in poverty rates between 1980 and 2000 (Map 1). Even the most severely depressed Delta counties adjacent to the Mississippi River had poverty rate reductions of 25.0 percent or more, and many of the remaining fringe counties had poverty rate reductions of 10.00 percent to 24.99 percent. Without doubt, the income gains experienced during the 1980s and 1990s resulted in improvements in the economic well-being of thousands of Delta households.

This finding is not intended to suggest that the problems associated with high poverty rates are a thing of the past. Concentrations of poverty and low income levels remain in the most rural and remote sections of the region, with some Delta counties ranking among the nation's poorest counties. The state income data shown in Tables 1 and 2 indicate that of the ten states with the highest poverty rates and lowest income levels in 2004, six were Delta states. Mississippi and Louisiana had the highest poverty rates in the nation, and the incidence of poverty was particularly acute for children aged 0-17. Over one in four children were in poverty in Mississippi and Louisiana in 2004. The median household income data indicate that Mississippi was the second lowest income state, and Louisiana and Arkansas were ranked third and fourth. These states were followed closely by Kentucky at sixth, Alabama at seventh, and Tennessee at tenth. County income data for 2004 (Table 3) indicate that eight of the twenty-five lowest income counties in the nation were Delta counties. Four additional Alabama counties served by the Delta Regional Authority were also among the lowest income counties in the nation. The median household income levels in each of the low-income counties were less than $22,000 and ranged from lows of $19,682 for Wilcox County, Alabama, and $20,295 for Holmes County, Mississippi, to $21,771 for Wilkerson County, Mississippi. Overall poverty rates for most of the lowest income counties were in excess of 30.0 percent, and youth poverty rates were frequently in excess of 40.0 percent.


The income data in Maps 2-6 show the magnitude of the percentage increases and the actual numerical increases in income levels for the Delta counties. The reader should keep in mind that no attempt was made to generate real income data. Real income data would adjust nominal income gains for increases in general price levels and would be a better measure of economic progress. But, real income increases would still be dramatic for most of the Delta counties. The fact remains that the income gains that occurred over the period 1980-1990 (Map 2) were continued in the 1990s (Map 3). While the percentage gains were lower for the second decade, most of the counties had income increases in excess of 50.0 percent during the 1990s.

Some counties with strong market center economies or casinos experienced dramatic gains associated with new job creation. In those communities and counties that were able to create job opportunities, long-awaited employment and income gains were finally realized. The strong national economy generated positive results for even the most impoverished parts of the Delta.

Economic imbalances that kept the Delta in the grips of long-term poverty have been loosened but not eliminated. Since 1980, the lack of employment and income opportunities in the Delta promoted multiple generations of out-migrants and a regional brain drain.

Those people left behind were frequently the least prepared to meet the challenges of the modern workplace. The lack of an educated and trained workforce has always been a major barrier to economic development efforts that focused on attracting high-wage employers to the Delta.

At the time of the 1980 census, nearly all of the rural Delta counties had per capita incomes of less than $7,500. Many of the most rural counties along the Mississippi River and sections of the Missouri Bootheel had income levels of between $3,559 and $5,608 (Map 4). The highest income areas of the Delta were the urban growth centers where jobs were created and employment opportunities were available for those able and willing to work (Hyland, Register, and Gunther 1991). While the per capita income levels during the 1980s increased for all of the Delta counties, the lowest income counties continued to exist in those rural areas where economic opportunities were not created (Map 5).





In general, the most impoverished counties in 1980 were also the lowest income counties in the Delta in 1990 and 2000 (Maps 5 and 6). Some of the counties in areas adjacent to growth centers or that managed to attract a casino; to become a tourism, recreation, or retirement location; or to attract a major industry gained substantially from the economic growth of the 1990s (Map 6). But, those counties that lacked the economic infrastructure or the human capital required for economic success remained stuck in the economic gumbo of the Delta.

Economic Progress Requires Job Creation

Without doubt, the most successful areas of the Delta were those that created job opportunities for the local workforce. For example, Tunica County, Mississippi, was the nation's poorest county until the arrival of the casino industry. Now, ample evidence exists to support the contention that the quality of the public infrastructure and the economic opportunities generated from the growth of the casino industry have transformed the economic outlook for future generations of Tunica residents. While it is true that the economic gains were not evenly distributed and that many of the original residents have not prospered because of the lack of job skills or the inability to take the jobs that are available, most Yunica residents are better off now than they were before the casinos were developed.


Unemployment and poverty rates declined dramatically and per capita income levels rose rapidly over the last two decades in Tunica County. But, many residents have not prospered, and Yunica County continues to be the place of residence for some of the Deltas poorest people. Evidence of the impact of the powerful economic explosion of the 1990s can be seen in the unemployment rates of the Delta counties. The data shown in Maps 7-10 clearly indicate that unemployment rates have declined substantially as a sufficient number of jobs were created for the Delta workforce. The declines in unemployment rates during the 1990s were most dramatic in the northern sections of the Delta. But to varying degrees, a majority of the Delta counties experienced decreases in unemployment rates (Map 7). This was a substantial improvement since unemployment rates in excess of 10.0 percent were still common for many core Delta counties in 1990 (Map 8). In general, only the urban and most prosperous counties of the Delta had unemployment rates below 6.3 percent in 1990. Most of the rural Delta counties had unemployment rates in excess of 8.2 percent in 1990. By comparison, unemployment rates were less than 4.5 percent in nearly all of the northern tier counties and were in excess of 9.0 percent in only the core Delta counties in Mississippi and Louisiana in 2000 (Map 9). In 2000, scattered pockets of unemployment in the Delta were frequently associated with the loss of a local industry or long-term structural issues like the changes that took place in agriculture. The loss of economic opportunities for local residents because of a plant closure was particularly devastating for the people who remained clustered in isolated parts of the Delta. The offshore migration of manufacturing, and particularly low-wage manufacturing from Deka communities, was a pattern that repeated itself many times. Decades of economic development effort were frequently lost in the overnight movement of businesses from the Delta. The data shown in Tables 4 and 5 indicate that labor markets in Delta region states are not all that unique. Employment changes taking place in the region's states mirror the changes taking place in the nation. The declines in the importance of manufacturing and the increases in the importance of services were a common trend in every state in the Delta and in the nation in general. The changes taking place in the structure of employment opportunities make service centers the focus of most of the region's economic growth. Industrial recruitment efforts are still the focus of most of the economic development efforts in the region. In spite of decades of evidence that manufacturing is a shrinking industry in the U.S., communities and states in the Delta continue to pursue the one big economic savior approach to economic development. Most of those efforts simply swim upstream against a long-run structural erosion of the nation's industrial base.




The employment data in Table 6 are for a random sample of counties in the Delta. The data clearly show that the declines in employment in agriculture and manufacturing evident in other national data are also evident in the data for these Delta counties. In the sample counties, agriculture accounted for 7.0 percent of total employment in 1990 but just 6.0 percent in 2005. Similarly, manufacturing accounted for 19.3 percent of all jobs in 1990 but fell to 13.4 percent by 2005. The service sector was the largest employment sector in 2005, increasing from 18.2 percent in 1990 to 19.2 percent by 2005, followed by government employment which increased from 16.6 percent in 1990 to 17.6 percent in 2005. The retail trade sector declined in importance, falling from 14.1 percent of total employment in 1990 to 11.3 percent by 2005.


Map 11 shows the percentage change in healthcare workers in the Delta counties between 2000 and 2005. While a few health service centers had large positive increases, scattered counties throughout the Delta experienced decreases in healthcare employment during the period. It is not surprising that the major growth centers were in communities with established health service providers. But, some communities like Memphis and Dyersburg, Tennessee, did not experience the highest percentage growth rates because of the mature status of the healthcare industry.

Many of the workers and communities impacted by the new pattern of manufacturing have been left without alternative employment opportunities. The out-migration of Delta residents seeking economic opportunities has had a long history. The out-migration process tends to accelerate for communities that experience economic downturns at the same time that other communities are experiencing strong economic growth. Map 12 shows the out-migration that has occurred since 1980. Many of the Delta counties have had negative population growth rates during both periods. But, other counties have had substantial positive population gains, and those counties were magnets for the Delta population displaced because of the absence of economic opportunities in their home counties. Maps 12 and 13 show that many of the poorest counties that form the core of the Delta have been the counties most seriously impacted by changing population declines. The suburban ring of counties that form around a more prosperous urban core county or that have become tourism or retirement communities was frequently attractive to people moving to and around the Delta. (5)



Ample evidence about the structure and changes taking place in the Delta states and counties suggests that the economic gains evident in the 1980s continued in the 1990s. The loss of manufacturing experienced throughout the nation is also evident in the Delta. The gains in service sector employment were the economic engines that drove the region's economy forward. The growth and relative prosperity of the Delta market centers were a result of the employment and population increases that occurred in and around those areas. "Prosperity breeds prosperity and failure breeds failure" seems to be the rule for the Delta. Counties with long-term structural problems were the same counties that have experienced employment and income stagnation since 1980. These counties are also difficult to assist. Even long-term federal and state initiatives to change the economic fortunes of the most troubled Delta counties have not been very successful. Market forces are difficult to overcome, and rural areas across the nation have been faced with the erosion of their human and physical capital.



Any new initiative designed to assist the poorest Delta counties should recognize the strengths and weaknesses of previous economic development efforts. The failings of previous attempts have been associated with an absence of local support, a narrow program focus, undercapitalization of the effort, and a failure to recognize market forces that complicate the already complex forces that make the Delta one of the nation's poorest and least successful areas.

Any investment in human capital that results from an expansion in health-related industries will be a positive factor for the Delta (Hawkins and Hyland 1990). But, those gains may be most pronounced in the most prosperous Delta counties and will be least positive for the poorest counties left behind by the economic expansion since 1980. The economic future of the poorest Delta counties may be difficult to transform with a narrowly-targeted health-related initiative. Perhaps the broad-based health initiatives being hammered out in Congress and promoted strongly by the Obama administration will make a lasting impact on improving access to healthcare for many of the nation's poorest people left behind in the Delta. Increasing access will require increasing the supply of healthcare professionals in the Delta and will have a positive impact on the communities that have become healthcare market centers.


Betts, D. Halfway Home & a Long Way to Go. Southern Growth Policies Board, 1988.

Cobb, J. C. The Selling of the South: The Southern Crusade for Industrial Development, 1936-1990. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1993.

Conkin, R K. "Hot, Humid, and Sad." The Journal of Southern History 64.1 (1998): 3-22.

Doolittle, L., and J. Davis. Social and Economic Change in the Mississippi Delta: An Update of Portrait Data (Social Research Report Series 96-2). Social Science Research Center. Starkville: Mississippi State University, 1996.

Hanson, R. B. Postmodern Riverfronts of the Lower Mississippi Delta: The Development of Consumer Landscape. Unpublished master's thesis, University of Memphis, TN, 2004.

Hawkins, W. E, and S. E. Hyland. "Rural Health Care Issues in the Lower Mississippi Delta: An Agenda for the Year 2000" Journal of Health & Social Policy 2.1 (1990): 79-94.

House, R. K. Higher Education and Economic Development in the Delta Region. Southern Illinois Collegiate Common Market, 1990.

Hyland, S, R. D. Register, and K. Gunther. "The Role of Cities in the Economic Development of the Lower South" City & Society 5.2(1991): 155-168.

Isserman, A. M., E. Feser, and D. Warren. Why Some Communities Prosper and Others Do Not. A report to USDA Rural Development, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2007.

Liner, E. B., and L. K. Lynch. The Economics of Southern Growth. Durham: Seeman Printery, 1977.

Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission. The Delta Initiatives: Realizing the Dream... Fulfilling the Potential, 1990.

Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission. The Body of the Nation, 1989.

Maddox, J. G., E. E. Liebhafsky, V. W. Henderson, and H.M. Hamlin. The Advancing South: Manpower Prospects and Problems. New York: Twentieth Century Fund, 1967.

Mirvis, D. M., C. F. Chang, and A. Cosby. "Health and Economic Development in the United States: Bringing International Lessons Home." Unpublished paper, 1986.

Percy, W. A. Lanterns on the Levee: Recollections of a Planter's Son. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1941.

Reeder, Richard ]., and Samuel D. Calhoun. "Federal Funding in the Delta." RuraI America 17.4 (2002): 20-30.

Rural Assistance Center. Information 6. Funding Resources for Rural Counties in the Mississippi Delta. Delta Resource Project. 2005.

Southern Rural Development Initiative. The Pattern of United States Department of Agriculture Policy 6. Funding in Rural America's Low Wealth and Minority Communities. USDA funding analysis report. Retrieved November 15, 2007, from Southern Rural Development Initiative,, June 2007.

The Southern Growth Policies Board. Halfway Home 6. a Long Way to Go. Report of the 1986 Commission on the Future of the South, 1986.

Valley Resource Center, Tennessee Valley Authority. Economic Trends 6. Forecasts for the Western and Mississippi Subregions.

Valley Resource Center, Tennessee Valley Authority. Entrepreneurship 6. Small Business Development.

(1) U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census Program Phases, http:l/www.census.govl rdo/program_phases/2010_census_program_phases.html.

(2) For a comprehensive resource list, see Rural Assistance Center, 2005, for the Delta Resource Project's information and funding sources for rural counties in the Mississippi Delta. For an analysis of the effectiveness of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's policy and funding in rural America, see "Southern Rural Development Initiative," June 2007.

(3) For a mid-term assessment and data update, see Doolittle and Davis 1996 and also Reeder and Calhoun 2002.

(4) For a recent analysis of what makes rural areas prosper, see Isserman, Feser, and Warren 2007.

(5) For a review of riverfronts in the Lower Mississippi Delta, see Hanson 2004.


John E. Gnuschke, Ph.D., Director, Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research, Fogelman College of Business 8 Economics;

Stanley Hyland, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Head, School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy, Department of Anthropology;

Jeffrey Wallace, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research, Fogelman College of Business 8 Economics;

Ryan Hanson, M.A., GIS Services Programmer, Center for Real Estate Research, Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research, Fogelman College of Business 8 Economics;


Stephen Smith, M.A., Research Associate, Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research, Fogelman College of Business 8 Economics, The University of Memphis

John E. Gnuschke, Ph.D.

Dr. John E. Gnuschke is Director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research and the Center for Manpower Studies and Professor of Economics at the University of Memphis. The Bureau and the Center are the applied business, economic, and labor market research divisions of the Fogelman College of Business and Economics. The divisions support the research and publication efforts of faculty members and interact with other research organizations, government agencies, and the business community. The Bureau and the Center rank among the top applied research divisions in the nation with approximately $3.0 million in research contracts. Dr. Gnuschke also serves as the Director of the Applied Information Technology Center and is Co-Director of the Center for Real Estate Research.

Dr. Gnuschke received his Ph.D. and M.A. degrees from the University of Missouri at Columbia and his B.S. from Utah State University. His areas of expertise include market assessments, survey research, impact studies, revenue and cost estimates, labor market studies, and competitor analyses. As a widely recognized leader in his profession, he serves on numerous local, state, and national committees and boards. He has served as president of AUBER (the national Association for University Business and Economic Research). He works closely with community leaders and organizations throughout the Mid-South. In addition to his academic and contract research activities, Dr. Gnuschke has over 25 years of experience as a private consultant to major business, legal, financial, and government organizations.

Stanley E. Hyland, Ph.D.

Dr. Stan Hyland is currently the Head of the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Memphis. Since coming to the University of Memphis in 1976, Dr. Hyland has worked with numerous governmental agencies, nonprofits, and community-based organizations. His research interests include neighborhood revitalization, community building, social entrepreneurship, participatory action research/evaluation, and community economic development. Dr. Hyland is involved in major community initiatives throughout Shelby County, including UPTOWN, the University District, College Park (LeMoyne Owen), Lakeland, and Collierville. His collaborative work has resulted in over $3 million in grants and contracts, numerous publications, international and national awards, and a series of students who now manage agencies and non-profit organizations.

Among his awards include the University Engaged Scholarship award (2005), the Harold Love Outstanding Community Involvement award from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (2000) and the Best Practices AwardMemphis Maps from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In 1988-1990, he directed research for the federal commission on the economic development of the lower Mississippi Delta region, chaired by then-governor Bill Clinton. He currently is actively involved with the City of Memphis, the Memphis Housing Authority, the HOPE VI revitalization efforts, and a health disparity project with inner-city students.

Dr. Hyland graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana, with a Ph.D. in Anthropology in 1977. Since then, he has been interested in conducting research with regard to community building initiatives, neighborhood connectedHess, and social networking. His book, Community Building for the 21st Century, was recently released published by the School of American Research.

Jeff Wallace, Ph.D.

Dr. Jeff Wallace is an Economist and Research Associate Professor of Applied Economic Research at the Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Memphis. He has been in this position since 1994.

Dr. Wallace specializes in economic impact studies, having most recently completed an economic impact study of the University of Tennessee's College of Pharmacy (2006-2007), a study of the economic impact of Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation (2005), and the economic impact of Memphis International Airport (2005).

Dr. Wallace also has substantial experience in tax revenue forecasting, government fiscal analysis, survey research, labor market analysis, product-market pricing analysis, state labor training program evaluation, and other state and local government program evaluations.

Ryan Hanson, M.A.

Ryan Hanson is the GIS Services Programmer for the SBBER. He received both his M.A. in geography and B.A. in journalism from the University of Memphis. He specializes in computerized mapping and research related to economic development, demographics, real estate, and urban issues. Mr. Hanson also serves on the board of the Memphis Area Geographic Information Council.

Stephen Smith, M.A.

Stephen Smith serves as both Research Associate and Editor at the Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Memphis. He has been with the Bureau since 1994.

Mr. Smith earned a M.A. in English from the University of Memphis. His study and professional backgrounds include professional writing, technical writing, creative writing, and layout and design.

Mr. Smith manages content, layout, and design for all Bureau publications, including the national award-winning quarterly magazine, Business Perspectives (2001 AUBER Award of Excellence in Publications). Other publications Mr. Smith has produced include Fogelman Focus and The Memphis Economy.
Table 1. Top Ten States with the Highest Poverty Rate, All Ages, 2004

Rank   Location               Population     Income

1      Mississippi             2,921,088     $34,278
2      Louisiana               4,523,628     $35,216
3      District of Columbia      550,521     $46,211
4      New Mexico              1,928,384     $37,838
5      Kentucky                4,173,405     $37,046
6      West Virginia           1,816,856     $33,993
7      Texas                  22,859,968     $41,645
8      Alabama                 4,557,808     $37,062
9      Arkansas                2,779,154     $35,295
10     Tennessee               5,962,959     $38,945

                Poverty Rate

       Ages     5-17      All    Ages
Rank    0-4    Related   Ages    0-17

1      30.8%    27.1%    19.3%   28.6%
2      31.8%    24.8%    19.2%   27.4%
3      31.5%    26.8%    18.3%   29.2%
4      27.8%    21.5%    16.7%   23.8%
5      26.2%    19.5%    16.3%   22.2%
6      27.0%    20.1%    16.2%   22.6%
7      25.8%    20.7%    16.2%   22.7%
8      26.2%    20.7%    16.1%   22.6%
9      28.1%    20.0%    15.6%   22.7%
10     25.0%    17.4%    15.0%   20.1%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau.

Table 2. Selected States with the
Lowest Median Household
Income, 2004

Rank   State         Median Household Income

2      Mississippi           $34,278
3      Louisiana             $35,216
4      Arkansas              $35,295
6      Kentucky              $37,046
7      Alabama               $37,062
10     Tennessee             $38,945

Source: U.S. Census Bureau.

Table 3. Selected Countries with the
Lowest Median Household Income, 2004

Rank   Location                    Population    Income

2      Owsley County, KY               4,746      $18,377
5      Clay County, KY                24,146      $19,491
6      Wilcox County, AL              12,937      $19,682
10     Holmes County, MS *            21,099      $20,295
11     Bullock County, AL *           11,055      $20,485
12     East Carroll Parish, LA *       8,756      $20,622
13     Humphreys County, MS *         10,527      $20,682
14     Jefferson County, MS *          9,432      $20,978
15     Issaquena County, MS *          1,909      $21,038
16     Tensas Parish, LA *             6,125      $21,040
11     Sumter County, AL              13,819      $21,189
19     Lee County, KY                  7,709      $21,578
20     Lee County, AR *               11,545      $21,580
21     Perry County, AL               11,371      $21,640
23     Wilkinson County, MS *         10,269      $21,771
24     McCreary County, KY            17,233      $21,822
25     Bell County, KY                29,665      $22,030

            Poverty Rate

        5-17      All      Ages
Rank   Related    Ages     0-17

2       45.3%    35.5%    48.0%
5       40.6%    34.3%    43.6%
6       38.7%    30.4%    39.4%
10      44.3%    33.7%    44.9%
11      35.7%    30.3%    35.0%
12      44.6%    36.0%    47.7%
13      49.0%    32.7%    47.2%
14      38.1%    29.6%    38.6%
15      43.9%    34.7%    40.2%
16      41.5%    31.3%    42.6%
11      33.7%    28.3%    36.9%
19      36.2%    29.8%    39.4%
20      34.5%    30.3%    37.4%
21      40.7%    30.4%    40.1%
23      40.6%    30.8%    39.2%
24      40.2%    30.1%    41.4%
25      35.7%    28.8%    39.4%

* Delta counties. ** Alabama counties.

Table 4. Service-Producing Employment as a
Percent of Total Nonfarm Employment, 1990-2006

Year    Arkansas      Illinois       Kentucky

1990      71.3%         78.1%         74.6%
1991      72.0%         78.9%         75.5%
1992      72.1%         79.5%         75.6%
1993      72.1%         79.8%         75.6%
1994      72.0%         79.1%         75.6%
1995      72.1%         79.8%         75.8%
1996      72.8%         79.9%         76.2%
1997      73.2%         80.1%         76.2%
1998      73.5%         80.3%         76.4%
1999      73.9%         80.7%         76.7%
2000      74.1%         81.0%         77.1%
2001      75.1%         81.6%         77.8%
2002      76.0%         82.3%         78.8%
2003      77.0%         82.8%         79.4%
2004      77.4%         83.2%         79.6%
2005      77.7%         83.5%         79.8%
2006      78.0%         83.7%         80.1%

Year   Louisiana     Mississippi    Missouri

1990      79.3%         70.4%         79.0%
1991      79.3%         70.6%         79.8%
1992      80.0%         70.7%         80.2%
1993      80.6%         71.2%         80.5%
1994      80.8%         71.8%         80.5%
1995      81.0%         72.4%         80.4%
1996      80.7%         73.4%         80.1%
1997      80.6%         73.8%         80.9%
1998      80.4%         73.5%         81.0%
1999      81.2%         74.1%         81.1%
2000      81.6%         75.2%         81.5%
2001      81.8%         76.8%         82.0%
2002      82.7%         77.7%         82.8%
2003      83.1%         78.6%         83.1%
2004      83.6%         78.9%         83.2%
2005      83.3%         78.8%         83.3%
2006      82.0%         78.7%         83.4%

Year    Tennessee      Region         U.S.

1990      72.7%         76.3%         78.3%
1991      73.5%         77.0%         79.2%
1992      73.6%         77.3%         79.7%
1993      73.8%         77.6%         80.0%
1994      74.1%         77.7%         80.1%
1995      74.4%         77.8%         80.3%
1996      75.2%         78.1%         80.4%
1997      75.7%         78.3%         80.5%
1998      76.1%         78.5%         80.7%
1999      76.6%         78.9%         81.0%
2000      77.1%         79.3%         81.3%
2001      78.4%         80.1%         81.9%
2002      79.4%         80.9%         82.7%
2003      80.0%         81.4%         83.2%
2004      80.3%         81.7%         83.4%
2005      80.5%         81.9%         83.4%
2006      80.8%         81.9%         83.4%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Table 5. Manufacturing Employment as a Percent
of Total Nonfarm Employment, 1990-2006

Year   Arkansas   Illinois    Kentucky   Louisiana   Mississippi

1990    23.7%       17.3%      18.5%       11.1%        24.5%
1991    23.4%       16.7%      18.1%       11.1%        24.6%
1992    23.2%       16.3%      18.0%       10.9%        24.6%
1993    23.2%       16.1%      18.0%       10.7%        23.9%
1994    23.2%       16.1%      18.1%       10.4%        23.1%
1995    23.0%       16.0%      18.2%       10.3%        22.4%
1996    22.1%       15.8%      17.8%       10.1%        21.2%
1997    21.8%       15.6%      17.7%       10.0%        20.6%
1998    21.5%       15.4%      17.5%       9.8%         20.6%
1999    21.1%       14.8%      17.2%       9.6%         20.2%
2000    20.7%       14.4%      17.0%       9.2%         19.3%
2001    19.7%       13.6%      16.2%       9.0%         17.8%
2002    18.6%       12.8%      15.4%       8.5%         16.7%
2003    18.0%       12.3%      14.9%       8.2%         16.1%
2004    17.6%       12.0%      14.7%       8.0%         16.0%
2005    17.1%       11.7%      14.4%       8.0%         15.8%
2006    16.6%       11.5%      14.2%       8.2%         15.4%

Year   Missouri   Tennessee    Region       U.S.

1990    16.7%       12.7%      18.3%       16.2%
1991    16.2%       22.2%      17.9%       15.7%
1992    15.7%       22.1%      17.7%       15.5%
1993    15.2%       21.8%      17.4%       15.1%
1994    14.8%       21.4%      17.2%       14.9%
1995    15.0%       21.0%      17.1%       14.7%
1996    14.6%       20.0%      16.6%       14.4%
1997    14.3%       19.5%      16.3%       14.2%
1998    14.1%       19.1%      16.1%       13.9%
1999    13.7%       18.6%      15.7%       13.4%
2000    13.3%       18.1%      15.2%       13.1%
2001    12.6%       16.9%      14.4%       12.5%
2002    12.0%       16.1%      13.6%       11.7%
2003    11.7%       15.5%      13.1%       11.2%
2004    11.5%       15.2%      12.9%       10.9%
2005    11.3%       14.9%      12.7%       10.6%
2006    11.1%       14.4%      12.4%       10.4%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Table 6. Mississippi Delta Region Employment
by Industry, Sample Counties, 1990 and 2005

                              2005     Percent     1990     Percent
Industry *                    Jobs     of Total    Jobs     of Total

Total Employment             283,162       N/A    264,308       N/A
  Farm Employment             16,861      6.0%     19,821      1.0%
  Construction                15,281      5.4%     12,049      4.3%
  Manufacturing               38,058     13.4%     54,131     19.3%
  Transportation and
    Public Utilities          10,569      3.1%      9,361      3.3%
  Retail Trade                31,930     11.3%     39,806     14.1%
  Services                    54,306     19.2%     51,419     18.2%
  Government and
    Government Enterprises    49,119     11.6%     41,009     16.6%
  Other                       66,312     23.4%     30,094     10.6%

                                Change      Percent Change
Industry *                   1990 to 2005     1990-2005

Total Employment               18,854            1.1%
  Farm Employment              -2,966          -15.0%
  Construction                  3,238           26.9%
  Manufacturing               -16,619          -30.5%
  Transportation and
    Public Utilities            1,202           12.8%
  Retail Trade                 -1,876          -19.8%
  Services                      2,881            5.6%
  Government and
    Government Enterprises      2,110            5.9%
  Other                        36,278           12.8%

Note: Counties included are: Ashley, Cleveland, Mississippi, and
Phillips counties in Arkansas; Hardin and Union counties in
Illinois; Galloway and Hopkins counties in Kentucky; Catahoula,
Evangeline, Richland, and Washington counties in Louisiana;
Copiah, Sunflower, Yalobusha, and Yazoo counties in Mississippi;
Cape Girardeau, Reynolds, and Texas counties in Missouri; and
Dyer and Hardeman counties in Tennessee.

* 2005 numbers are based upon the North American Industrial
Classification System (NAILS) definitions, while the 1990 numbers
are based upon the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC)
definitions. While differences exist between the two sets of
definitions, they are not substantial enough to impact the
comparisons in this table. For more information see: http://www.

Source: Regional Economic Information System, Bureau of Economic
Analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce.
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Author:Gnuschke, John E.; Hyland, Stanley; Wallace, Jeffrey; Hanson, Ryan; Smith, Stephen
Publication:Business Perspectives
Article Type:Statistical data
Geographic Code:1U6MS
Date:Jun 22, 2009
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