Poverty is one of Mississippi’s most intractable problems, and it’s among the most complex issues facing the next governor.
Low incomes translate into lower revenues for the state. People who struggle to support themselves and their families are more likely to rely on government to provide health care and other services.
The scope of the problem is clear in Holmes County, one the poorest areas in one of the poorest states in the union. Unemployment is chronically high, and local residents say it’s tough to find jobs that pay sustainable wages.
Earline Malone said that this spring, she closed a child care center she’d operated in downtown Pickens since 1993. She said business dropped because some parents could no longer afford day care — so, rather than work for modest paychecks, they’re staying home.
“All the people have got to live off now is food stamps,” said Malone, who’s proud that she and her late husband never took public assistance as they raised their own six children, all of whom graduated from college.
Mississippi voters elect a new governor Nov. 8 because Republican Haley Barbour is limited to two terms and couldn’t seek re-election.