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From Unemployment to Food Insecurity, Black Women in the Rural South are Suffering

As gaps in income and wealth continue to widen in the United States and structural and institutional barriers to economic security persist, this report reminds us that there is still much work to do to ensure that all women, children, and families have a fair shot at success and opportunity in our society.

Shae Hill holds her daughter Fredderio in a store in Glendora, a rural town in the impoverished Mississippi Delta on May 7, 2009., Getty Images

ALBANY, Ga. — Today, the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative (SRBWI) released startling new findings, revealing that on nearly every social indicator of well-being — from income and earnings to obesity and food security — Black women, girls and children in the rural South rank low or last. SRBWI, works in 77 rural counties of the South’s “Black Belt,” some of the most neglected regions in the U.S.

“We hope to shine a long overdue spotlight on the inequalities and resulting injustices Black women face on a daily basis as they work to obtain full economic security and to create a better life and future for their families,” said former Obama appointee Shirley Sherrod, the former Georgia state director of Rural Development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Report data reflect findings from nine rural counties throughout Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi in six main issue areas that shape the lives of women and families, including: poverty, income and employment, education, health, public infrastructure and housing. It provides never-before-seen baseline quantitative and qualitative data on the economic, social, and health status of Black women and families in the rural South.

Key findings include:

  • In the rural South, more than 1 in 4 children and nearly as many women live in poverty; the poverty rate is more than double for African-Americans and Latinos compared to their white counterparts.
  • In rural Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, white women were four times more likely to be employed and Black women earned nearly one-third less than white women.
  • In Clay County, Georgia, 36 percent of Black women had less than a high school diploma compared to 8 percent of white women.
  • Nearly 80 percent of the 4.8 million uninsured U.S. adults who fall into the coverage gap that would be alleviated by Medicaid expansion live in the South.
  • In Georgia, the teen pregnancy rate in rural counties was more than double the state rate, and the teen birth rate was at least 20 percent higher.
  • Of the 19 million Americans without broadband Internet access, 14.5 million live in rural counties.
  • In 2012, of the $4.8 billion philanthropic investments allocated to the South, just 5.4 percent went to programs focused on women and girls and less than 1 percent to programs focused on Black women and girls.

“Today’s report should be a call to philanthropists, foundations, and our government to infuse critical resources into communities to build the long-term economic security and well-being of low-income Black women, children and families in the rural South,” said C. Nicole Mason, report author and executive director of the Center for Research and Policy in the Public Interest.

Report data also outline challenges to mobility or migration for these populations within the rural South. As these communities are hollowed out by loss of jobs, industries and vital services, the families and individuals left behind have fewer resources, more medical issues, lower levels of educational attainment, caretaking responsibilities or other barriers. These factors make it nearly impossible to migrate to another town or metropolitan area.

Report data are punctuated by compelling personal stories, outlining the effects of these conditions on the lives of real women and families. For example, Callie Greer described the loss of her twenty-year-old daughter Venus to breast cancer. Without insurance, Venus’ access to care was an uphill battle with treatment severely delayed. She waited more than five months to receive care and then several more weeks for medicine and medical equipment. Soon afterward, the cancer spread throughout her body and she succumbed to the disease. Women in the rural South are more likely to delay care and access to medical treatment due to costs. Lack of access to transportation is also an issue that impedes access to health care. Less than one-half of rural women live within a 30-minute drive to the nearest hospital or clinic offering perinatal services or other necessary medical services.

In the report’s foreword, Obama appointee Christopher A. Masingill, the federal co-chair of the Delta Regional Authority, said report data “will help decision makers, local officials, and community members craft the policies and programs that will address the infrastructure, access, and services rural black women and impoverished families across the South need to live healthy lifestyles, pursue a quality education and make a better life for their children.”

The Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative (SRBWI) is administered by the Children’s Defense Fund-Southern Regional Office (CDF-SRO) and serves as regional administrator and state lead for program activities in Mississippi. The Federation of Community Controlled Child Care Centers of Alabama (FOCAL) is SRBWI state lead in Alabama, and the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education leads work in Georgia.

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- See more at: http://srbwi.org/index.php?/news/story/unequal-lives#sthash.L5VyQ3cg.dp…

ALBANY, Ga. — Today, the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative (SRBWI) released startling new findings, revealing that on nearly every social indicator of well-being — from income and earnings to obesity and food security — Black women, girls and children in the rural South rank low or last. SRBWI, works in 77 rural counties of the South’s “Black Belt,” some of the most neglected regions in the U.S.

“We hope to shine a long overdue spotlight on the inequalities and resulting injustices Black women face on a daily basis as they work to obtain full economic security and to create a better life and future for their families,” said former Obama appointee Shirley Sherrod, the former Georgia state director of Rural Development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Report data reflect findings from nine rural counties throughout Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi in six main issue areas that shape the lives of women and families, including: poverty, income and employment, education, health, public infrastructure and housing. It provides never-before-seen baseline quantitative and qualitative data on the economic, social, and health status of Black women and families in the rural South.

Key findings include:

  • In the rural South, more than 1 in 4 children and nearly as many women live in poverty; the poverty rate is more than double for African-Americans and Latinos compared to their white counterparts.
  • In rural Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, white women were four times more likely to be employed and Black women earned nearly one-third less than white women.
  • In Clay County, Georgia, 36 percent of Black women had less than a high school diploma compared to 8 percent of white women.
  • Nearly 80 percent of the 4.8 million uninsured U.S. adults who fall into the coverage gap that would be alleviated by Medicaid expansion live in the South.
  • In Georgia, the teen pregnancy rate in rural counties was more than double the state rate, and the teen birth rate was at least 20 percent higher.
  • Of the 19 million Americans without broadband Internet access, 14.5 million live in rural counties.
  • In 2012, of the $4.8 billion philanthropic investments allocated to the South, just 5.4 percent went to programs focused on women and girls and less than 1 percent to programs focused on Black women and girls.

“Today’s report should be a call to philanthropists, foundations, and our government to infuse critical resources into communities to build the long-term economic security and well-being of low-income Black women, children and families in the rural South,” said C. Nicole Mason, report author and executive director of the Center for Research and Policy in the Public Interest.

Report data also outline challenges to mobility or migration for these populations within the rural South. As these communities are hollowed out by loss of jobs, industries and vital services, the families and individuals left behind have fewer resources, more medical issues, lower levels of educational attainment, caretaking responsibilities or other barriers. These factors make it nearly impossible to migrate to another town or metropolitan area.

Report data are punctuated by compelling personal stories, outlining the effects of these conditions on the lives of real women and families. For example, Callie Greer described the loss of her twenty-year-old daughter Venus to breast cancer. Without insurance, Venus’ access to care was an uphill battle with treatment severely delayed. She waited more than five months to receive care and then several more weeks for medicine and medical equipment. Soon afterward, the cancer spread throughout her body and she succumbed to the disease. Women in the rural South are more likely to delay care and access to medical treatment due to costs. Lack of access to transportation is also an issue that impedes access to health care. Less than one-half of rural women live within a 30-minute drive to the nearest hospital or clinic offering perinatal services or other necessary medical services.

In the report’s foreword, Obama appointee Christopher A. Masingill, the federal co-chair of the Delta Regional Authority, said report data “will help decision makers, local officials, and community members craft the policies and programs that will address the infrastructure, access, and services rural black women and impoverished families across the South need to live healthy lifestyles, pursue a quality education and make a better life for their children.”

The Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative (SRBWI) is administered by the Children’s Defense Fund-Southern Regional Office (CDF-SRO) and serves as regional administrator and state lead for program activities in Mississippi. The Federation of Community Controlled Child Care Centers of Alabama (FOCAL) is SRBWI state lead in Alabama, and the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education leads work in Georgia.

- See more at: http://srbwi.org/index.php?/news/story/unequal-lives#sthash.L5VyQ3cg.dp…

While most of America has largely recovered from the Great Recession, a new report from the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative (SRBWI) shows that black women in the rural south are trailing far behind the rest of the nation, living in an impoverished space where entire industries are shuttering factories and shedding jobs, world-shrinking broadband Internet is a novelty, and a lack of infrastructure stands in the way of education and proper nutrition. 

The report uses existing data and features interviews with more than 200 families to examine the overall well-being of black women in nine rural counties across the Black Belt in Alabama and Georgia and in the Mississippi Delta.  In these areas 20 percent of the population has lived in persistent poverty for the last five years, as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture. The results show that when it comes to economic security, health, education and connection to the rest of the world, these women—and their children—are not afforded opportunities on par with their peers. 

In fact, the report revealed that about nine out of 10 of these women are living in poverty. “And many of these women are heads of household, so we can extrapolate that there are an overwhelming number of children who are also impoverished,” said report author Dr. C. Nicole Mason, who is also the executive director at the Center for Research & Policy in the Public Interest, during a press briefing about the report.

Key takeaways from the report include:

  • Fully 61 percent of the households headed by single black moms in the areas studied are living in poverty, versus 20.6 percent for their white counterparts. In Georgia’s Clay County, that number soars to 70.4 percent.
  • The unemployment rate is 23.58 percent—five times that of white women in the same counties.
  • In 2012 (the latest year for which data is available), just 1 percent of the $4.8 billion philanthropic dollars allocated to the South went to programs focused on black women and girls.
  • The women studied were three times less likely than whites to finish high school or take an equivalency exam.
  • Nearly one in every 10 new HIV diagnoses are made in rural areas, and half of those cases are in black people.
  • Black women are 3.2 times more likely than white women to die during pregnancy or childbirth.
  • More than a quarter of those surveyed reported food insecurity. And at the county level, up to 60 percent of low-income residents live more than a mile from a supermarket. 
     

“The rural South is a part of America, and we are hoping that this report will help to illuminate the fact that we have a part of the country where a great deal of suffering is taking place,” Sophia Bracy Harris, Alabama director for SRBWI, said during the press briefing. “But there’s a great deal of hope. People simply need for us to pay attention and support them in ways that [will help them] support themselves.”

“Today’s report should be a call to philanthropists, foundations, and our government to infuse critical resources into communities to build the long-term economic security and well-being of low-income b lack women, children and families in the rural South,” Mason said in a press release.

Among the recommendations offered in the report are create local businesses that provide training and long-term jobs, support programs that prepare high schoolers for college, invest in programs that feed low-income children during the summer, provide reproductive health education to reduce pregnancy and STI transmission rates, and revamp the education system.

Read the full report here.