Still a long way to go for the lower Mississippi Delta.
Article Type: Report
Subject: Economic conditions (Influence)
Economic conditions (Health aspects)
Medical care (Mississippi)
Medical care (Investments)
Employment forecasting
Authors: Gnuschke, John E.
Hyland, Stanley
Wallace, Jeffrey
Hanson, Ryan
Smith, Stephen
Pub Date: 06/22/2008
Publication: Name: Journal of Health and Human Services Administration Publisher: Southern Public Administration Education Foundation, Inc. Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Government; Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Southern Public Administration Education Foundation, Inc. ISSN: 1079-3739
Issue: Date: Summer, 2008 Source Volume: 31 Source Issue: 1
Topic: Event Code: 250 Financial management Canadian Subject Form: Medical care (Private); Medical care (Private) Computer Subject: Company investment
Product: Product Code: 8000001 Medical & Health Services; 9105210 Health Care Services NAICS Code: 62 Health Care and Social Assistance; 92312 Administration of Public Health Programs SIC Code: 8000 HEALTH SERVICES
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Mississippi Geographic Code: 1U6MS Mississippi
Accession Number: 180948023

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.


The focus of this symposium is on the "Role of Health as an Economic Engine in the Lower Mississippi River Delta." The proposition to be examined during the symposium is that global models which link direct investments in health services to economic and social gains can be applied in the Delta (Mirvis, Chang, & Cosby, 1986). The purpose of this paper is to provide a brief description of the economic conditions that define the Delta. This overview is intended to set the stage for subsequent discussions of the potential impact of investments in healthcare.

This report is not intended to provide the reader with a comprehensive examination of the volumes of material written about the history, sociology, demography, health, and economic conditions of the Delta. Rather, this analysis simply attempts to capture the essence of recent economic changes that have defined the Delta. Only time will tell if lasting improvements can be made in the Delta's economic climate.


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:

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 Delta's 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 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, & 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 & 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, p.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:

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. (1) The commitment to long-term 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, p. 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 work force.

4. Strengthen society as a whole by strengthening at-risk 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, p. 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 18 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, p. 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, p. 7).


Although recognizing the area's assets, the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission (1989) concluded that:

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. (2) 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. (3)

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% or more, and many of the remaining fringe counties had poverty rate reductions of 10.00%-24.99%. 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%, and youth poverty rates were frequently in excess of 40.0%.

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 account for income increases associated simply with increases in general price levels. Real income increases would be only slightly less dramatic than the actual numerical values shown in the maps. 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% 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, & 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.



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 Tunica 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 Tunica County continues to be the place of residence for some of the Delta's 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% 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% in 1990. Most of the rural Delta counties had unemployment rates in excess of 8.2% in 1990. By comparison, unemployment rates were less than 4.5% in nearly all of the northern tier counties and were in excess of 9.0% 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 Delta 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% of total employment in 1990 but just 6.0% in 2005. Similarly, manufacturing accounted for 19.3% of all jobs in 1990 but fell to 13.4% by 2005. The service sector was the largest employment sector in 2005, increasing from 18.2% in 1990 to 19.2% by 2005, followed by government employment which increased from 16.6% in 1990 to 17.6% in 2005. The retail trade sector declined in importance, falling from 14.1% of total employment in 1990 to 11.3% 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 were frequently attractive to people moving to and around the Delta. (4)



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 was 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, under-capitalization 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 & 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.


Betts, D. (1988). Halfway home & a long way to go. Southern Growth Policies Board.

Cobb, J. C. (1993). The selling of the South: The southern crusade for industrial development, 1936-1990. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press.

Conkin, P. K. (1998). Hot, humid, and sad. The Journal of Southern History, 64 (1), 3-22.

Doolittle, L., & Davis, J. (1996). 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.

Hanson, R. B. (2004). Postmodern riverfronts of the lower Mississippi Delta: The development of consumer landscape. Unpublished master's thesis, University of Memphis, TN.

Hawkins, W. F., & Hyland, S. E. (1990). Rural health care issues in the lower Mississippi Delta: An agenda for the year 2000. Journal of Health & Social Policy, 2 (1), 79-94.

House, R. K. (1990). Higher education and economic development in the Delta region. Southern Illinois Collegiate Common Market.

Hyland, S, Register, R. D., & Gunther, K. (1991). The role of cities in the economic development of the lower south. City & Society, 5 (2), 155-168.

Isserman, A. M., Feser, E., & Warren, D. (2007). Why some communities prosper and others do not. A report to USDA Rural Development, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Liner, E. B., & Lynch, L. K. (1977). The economics of southern growth. Durham: Seeman Printery.

Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission. (1990). The Delta initiatives: Realizing the dream ... fulfilling the potential.

Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission. (1989). The body of the nation.

Maddox, J. G., Liebhafsky, E. E., Henderson, V. W., & Hamlin, H. M. (1967). The advancing South: Manpower prospects and problems. New York: Twentieth Century Fund.

Mirvis, D. M., Chang, C. F., & Cosby, A. (1986). Health and economic development in the United States: Bringing international lessons home. Unpublished paper.

Percy, W. A. (1941). Lanterns on the levee: Recollections of a planter's son. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Reeder, Richard J., & Calhoun, Samuel D. (2002). Federal funding in the Delta. Rural America, 17 (4), 20-30.

Rural Assistance Center (2005). Information & funding resources for rural counties in the Mississippi Delta. Delta Resource Project.

Southern Rural Development Initiative. (June 2007). The pattern of United States Department of Agriculture policy & funding in rural America's low wealth and minority communities. USDA funding analysis report. Retrieved November 15, 2007, from Southern Rural Development Initiative Web site: pdf

(1) 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 policy and funding in rural America, see Southern Rural Development Initiative, June 2007.

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

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

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






University of Memphis
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, p.

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, p.63).

the Delta is also a land of hardship and poverty. According to the
   1980 census, extreme poverty afflicted 20.9% of the region's
   residents; in the Appalachian region, however, only 17% 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% each. And Tunica County, Mississippi,
   qualified as the poorest county in the nation with a 52.9% poverty
   rate according to the same census (p. 3).

Table 1
Top Ten States with the Highest Poverty Rate, All Ages, 2004

                                     Household     Ages
Rank    Location       Population     Income       0-4

1       Mississippi     2,921,088    $34,278       30.8%

2       Louisiana       4,523,628    $35,216       31.8%

3       District of
        Columbia          550,521    $46,211       31.5%

4       New
        Mexico          1,928,384    $37,838       27.8%

5       Kentucky        4,173,405    $37,046       26.2%

6       West
        Virginia        1,816,856    $33,993       27.0%

7       Texas          22,859,968    $41,645       25.8%

8       Alabama         4,557,808    $37,062       26.2%

9       Arkansas        2,779,154    $35,295       28.1%

10      Tennessee       5,962,959    $38,945       25.0%

                                 Poverty Rate

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

1       Mississippi         27.1%        19.4%     28.6%

2       Louisiana           24.8%        19.2%     27.4%

3       District of
        Columbia            26.8%        18.3%     29.2%

4       New
        Mexico              21.5%        16.7%     23.8%

5       Kentucky            19.5%        16.3%     22.2%

6       West
        Virginia            20.1%        16.2%     22.6%

7       Texas               20.7%        16.2%     22.7%

8       Alabama             20.7%        16.1%     22.6%

9       Arkansas            20.0%        15.6%     22.7%

10      Tennessee           17.4%        15.0%     20.1%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau.

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

Rank    State                   Income

 2      Mississippi            $34,278
 3      Louisiana              $45,216
 4      Arkansas               $35,295
 6      Kentucky               $37,046
 7      Alabama                $37,062
 10     Tennessee              $38,945

Source: U.S. Census Bureau.

Table 3
Selected Counties with the Lowest Median Household Income, 2004

                                                    Poverty Rate

                                  Median       Ages
                                 Household     5-17      All     Ages
Rank  Location       Population   Income      Related   Ages     0-17

 2    Owsley
      County, KY          4,746   $18,377      45.3%    35.5%    48.0%

 5    Clay
      County, KY         24,126   $19,491      40.6%    34.3%    43.6%

 6    Wilcox
      County, AL         12,937   $19,682      38.7%    30.4%    39.4%

 10   Holmes
      County, MS        210,999   $20,295      44.3%    33.7%    44.9%

 11   Bullock
      County, AL         11,055   $20,485      35.7%    30.3%    35.0%

 12   East Carroll
      Parish, LA          8,756   $20,622      44.6%    36.0%    47.7%

 13   Humphreys
      County, MS         10,527   $20,682      49.0%    32.7%    47.2%

 14   Jefferson
      County, MS          1,909   $21,038      43.9%    34.7%    40.2%

 15   Issaquena
      County, MS          1,909   $21,038      43.9%    34.7%    40.2%

 16   Tensas
      Parish, LA          6,125   $21,040      41.5%    31.3%    42.6%

 17   Sumter
      County, AL         13,819   $21,189      33.7%    28.3%    36.9%

 19   Lee County,
      KY                  7,709   $21,578      36.2%    29.8%    39.4%

 20   Lee County,
      AR                 11,545   $21,580      34.5%    30.3%    37.4%

 21   Perry
      County, AL         11,371   $21,640      40.7%    30.4%    40.1%

 23   Wilkinson
      County, MS         10,269   $21,771      40.6%    30.8%    39.2%

 24   McCreary
      County, MS         17,233   $21,822      40.2%    30.1%    41.4%

 25   Bell
      County, KY         29,655   $20,030      35.7%    28.8%    39.4%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau.

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

Year     AR     IL     KY     LA     MS     MO     TN    Region   U.S.

1990    71.3   78.1   74.6   79.3   70.4   79.0   72.7    76.3    78.3
1991    72.0   78.9   75.5   79.3   70.6   79.8   73.5    77.0    79.2
1992    72.1   79.5   75.6   80.0   70.7   80.2   73.6    77.3    79.7
1993    72.1   79.8   75.6   80.6   71.2   80.5   73.8    77.6    80.0
1994    72.0   79.7   75.6   80.8   71.8   80.5   74.1    77.7    80.1
1995    72.1   79.8   75.8   81.0   72.4   80.4   74.4    77.8    80.3
1996    72.8   79.9   76.2   80.7   73.4   80.7   75.2    78.1    80.4
1997    73.2   80.1   76.2   80.6   73.8   80.9   75.7    78.3    80.5
1998    73.5   80.3   76.4   80.4   73.5   81.0   76.1    78.5    80.7
1999    73.9   80.7   76.7   81.2   74.1   81.1   76.6    78.9    81.0
2000    74.1   81.0   77.1   81.6   75.2   81.5   77.1    79.3    81.3
2001    75.1   81.6   77.8   81.8   76.8   82.0   78.4    80.1    81.9
2002    76.0   82.3   78.8   82.7   77.7   82.8   79.4    80.9    82.7
2003    77.0   82.8   79.4   83.1   78.6   83.1   80.0    81.4    83.2
2004    77.4   83.2   79.6   83.6   78.9   83.2   80.3    81.7    83.4
2005    77.7   83.5   79.8   83.3   78.8   83.3   80.5    81.9    83.4
2006    78.0   83.7   80.1   82.0   78.7   83.4   80.8    81.9    83.4

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Table 5
Manufacturing Employment as a Percent of Total Nonfarm Employment,

Year     AR     IL     KY     LA     MS     MO     TN    Region   U.S.

1990    23.7   17.3   18.5   11.1   24.5   16.7   22.7    18.3    16.2
1991    23.4   16.7   18.1   11.1   24.6   16.2   22.2    17.9    15.7
1992    23.2   16.3   18.0   10.9   24.6   15.7   22.1    17.7    15.5
1993    23.2   16.1   18.0   10.7   23.9   15.2   21.8    17.4    15.1
1994    23.2   16.1   18.1   10.4   23.1   14.8   21.4    17.2    14.9
1995    23.0   16.0   18.2   10.3   22.4   15.0   21.0    17.1    14.7
1996    22.1   15.8   17.8   10.1   21.2   14.6   20.0    16.6    14.4
1997    21.8   15.6   17.7   10.0   20.6   14.3   19.5    16.3    14.2
1998    21.5   15.4   17.5   9.8    20.6   14.1   19.1    16.1    13.9
1999    21.1   14.8   17.2   9.6    20.2   13.7   18.6    15.7    13.4
2000    20.7   14.4   17.0   9.2    19.3   13.3   18.1    15.2    13.1
2001    19.7   13.6   16.2   9.0    17.8   12.6   16.9    14.4    12.5
2002    18.6   12.8   15.4   8.5    16.7   12.0   16.1    13.6    11.7
2003    18.0   12.3   14.9   8.2    16.1   11.7   15.5    13.1    11.2
2004    17.6   12.0   14.7   8.0    16.0   11.5   15.2    12.9    10.9
2005    17.1   11.7   14.4   8.0    15.8   11.3   14.9    12.7    10.6
2006    16.6   11.5   14.2   8.2    15.4   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, (1) 1990 and 2005

                                                       Change    Change
                    2005     % of     1990     % of     1990-    1990-
Industry (2)        Jobs     Total    Jobs     Total    2005      2005

Total Employment   283,162    N/A    264,308    N/A     18,854      7.1

Farm Employment     16,861     6.0    19,827     7.0    -2,966    -15.0

Construction        15,287     5.4    12,049     4.3     3,238     26.9

Manufacturing       38,058    13.4    54,737    19.3   -16,679    -30.5

Transportation &
Public Utilities    10,569     3.7     9,367     3.3     1,202     12.8

Retail Trade        31,930    11.3    39,806    14.1    -7,876    -19.8

Services            54,306    19.2    51,419    18.2     2,887      5.6

Government and
Enterprises         49,779    17.6    47,009    16.6     2,770      5.9

Other               66,372    23.4    30,094    10.6    36,278     12.8

(1) Counties included are: Ashley, Cleveland, Mississippi, and Phillips
counties in Arkansas; Hardin and Union counties in Illinois; Calloway
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

(2) The 2005 numbers are based upon the North American Industrial
Classification System (NAICS) 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,

Source: Regional Economic Information System, Bureau of Economic
Analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce.
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