Meridian Star


March 18, 2013

Too many better off not working


Here’s the deal. Mississippi ranks at or near the bottom because so many of our people are poor.

    So, what’s the plan? Well, we’ve had many plans, but nothing much has changed. I’ve been in on many of those plans. Here’s my takeaway from those experiences:

    1) Too many of our working age people don’t have jobs.

    2) Too many of our jobs pay very little.

    3) Our politicians really don’t focus on solutions for items 1 and 2.

    A study by the Upjohn Foundation for Blueprint Mississippi found “The State of Mississippi has historically had one of the lowest Labor Force Participation Rates in the United States.”

    A look at Mississippi’s population age 20 to age 64 who are not in school, not in the military, and not incarcerated (2010 Census data) shows that 451,000 of these 1,690,000 working age people were unemployed and not seeking employment, a whopping 26.7 percent.

    Sixty percent of these are women, including moms who elect to stay home to raise and home school children. A look at the men only part of these numbers showed 22 percent of them unemployed and not seeking employment.

    Why do so many not seek work?

    We don’t have enough jobs? They don’t have skills needed for jobs? They operate in the black market economy (drugs, etc.)? They’re better off not taking low wage jobs?

    All of the above are true, but let’s focus on the last point.

    True story: A rural hospital and nursing home recruited graduates of a community college grant-funded nurse aid training program. None completed applications. They said the jobs paid so little they were better off unemployed. Their wages would not offset lose of food stamps, housing subsidies, and Medicaid. In Mississippi starting wages for nurse aides average $8.12 an hour or $16,890 per year without overtime.

    According to a report published annually by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, 37 percent of all jobs in 2011 offered starting wages below $9 per hour.

    All this suggests that if we want to address our low rankings, we’ve got to find a way to incentivize more people to work rather than the opposite.

    Suggestions:  Rather than give away millions in tax incentives for outlet mall jobs in Pearl or spend extra millions to support tourism jobs (both among the lowest wage jobs we have), provide tax incentives to traditionally low wage businesses that will increase their starting wages. Find a way, through Medicaid expansion, a state-operated insurance exchange, or some pool mechanism, to provide affordable health insurance to the working poor. Revamp subsidy programs to make folks better off working in low wage jobs than not working at all.

    It’s so frustrating to see other states, but not us, really do some of these things.


    Bill Crawford ( is a

syndicated columnist from Meridian.

Text Only
Biz Marquee
New Today

Do you think the city of Meridian should contribute to a $600,000 matching grant Lauderdale County has applied for to fund a new building that could house a satellite Boys and Girls Club building?

     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide