New social research shows Louisiana ranking low on social justice


A mural is displayed in Central City in New Orleans. Central City is a low-income part of the city affected by the JustSouth Index of 2019. Gabriella Killett/The Maroon Photo credit: Gabriella Killett

Baley Champagne

A recent research report found in its annual results that Louisiana is now second to last in the U.S. on measures of social justice.

Louisiana ranked 50th overall out of all 50 states and Washington D.C., in the JustSouth Index 2019 report released in November 2020 by Loyola’s Jesuit Social Research Institute. The report said that the state’s placement comes from its performance on “nine quantitative indicators that fall under three dimensions: poverty, racial disparity and immigrant exclusion.”

The Jesuit Social Research Institute’s recent report focused on the social realities of those native and foreign born Louisianians who are most vulnerable to social challenges.

Carol McGregor, associate professor of sociology, said it appeared that despite its low ranking, Louisiana improved in the specific indicator of poverty. While in 2016, Louisiana came in 50th, it was ranked 44th in 2019.

One of the measures that goes into the index for measuring poverty is the percentage of citizens without health insurance, an area where Louisiana has improved in recent years.

From 2016 to 2019, Gov. John Bel Edwards expanded access to Medicaid, bringing federal dollars that gave insurance to more people in the state, according to Dennis Kalob, a contributor to the report and an economic policy specialist at the Jesuit Social Research Institute.

Louisiana now stands as having the third-lowest average income among low-income households in the nation. The state also has the second-largest wage gap between White people and people of color.

Since 2007, the Jesuit Social Research Institute, Loyola University of New Orleans, and the Society of Jesus have been meeting with policymakers, businesses, and organizations to better social opportunities for all Louisianians. according to Kalob.

The Jesuit Social Research Institute, Loyola University of New Orleans and the Society of Jesus are making policy recommendations as this report looks directly at areas of potential need.

“Our purposes are to educate the people of this region and to point out how we together can make the kind of changes that promote far greater social justice, equity, and inclusion for all of us who live here,” said The Rev. Fred Kramer, S.J., director of the Jesuit Social Research Institute.

Kalob said local policymakers should look at the report and know that they have made what he believes to be a positive impact on the community through expanding access to Medicaid. Kalob said he believes other policies need to be embraced by statewide elected officials in order for Louisiana to advance beyond 50th place.