South Region

South Region

Marguerite Casey Foundation’s South grantmaking region comprises eight states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. From 2002 through 2015, Marguerite Casey Foundation has invested $68 million in the South region via 313 grants awarded to 123 organizations. Currently, the foundation has 58 active South region grants with 48 grantees.

The South posts some of the worst quality-of-life indicators in the country. Three South region states – Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama – rank in the top five for adult obesity, each posting obesity percentages of 33.5 or greater.[1] This region also contains the most uninsured residents in the country. Four of the South region states – Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana and Georgia – rank in the top 10 nationally for the highest percentage of uninsured residents, each claiming at least 20.8 percent of its population as uninsured.[2]

Additionally, four of the South region states (Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia) rank among the top ten nationally for percentage of people living in poverty. Mississippi, whose poverty rate is 21.5 percent, is the worst of all states and the District of Columbia.[3] Its poverty rate among working-age women (23.1 percent) was also worst in the nation.[4]

Southern states continue to lead the nation in dependence on federal funding. According to 2012 U.S. Census figures, Mississippi’s general revenue budget included 45.3 percent federal funding, the largest percentage of federal allocations to a state in the country. Louisiana ranked second at 43.9 percent and Georgia ranked seventh at 37.9 percent.[5]

While the South continues to be the fastest-growing region of the country, its demographic shifts have also been marked by Southern-born residents moving from one state to another within the region. A study on America’s demographic shift in The New York Times  shows that despite having a steady influx of foreign-born citizens, Southern residents moving from one state to another often have a bigger influence on politics and the economy than immigration, as Southern-born residents account for at least 85 percent of the total population in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi each.[6]

Gentrification, a subject of much debate across the country, is present in many working-class and impoverished areas where foundation grantees are located. The practice of redeveloping those areas for upscale mixed-use property raises rental prices and property taxes, forcing long-time working class residents to be priced out and preventing others from moving in. In the coming years, grantees in the South will have to decide whether to remain in their existing communities or, like many of those they seek to organize, reluctantly relocate elsewhere. Indeed, a 2013 Business Insider report that ranked the most gentrified cities in America lists three that house South grantees: Atlanta (6th), New Orleans (14th) and Miami (27th).[7]

Two grantees in Miami, Catalyst Miami and New Florida Majority, have grappled with the possibility of being relocated from the U.S. 1 Corridor area, a prime spot for redevelopment in the city. In New Orleans, foundation grantee Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) reported that in the 10 years since Hurricane Katrina damaged much of the city’s public housing, damaged structures became ripe for privatization. As a result, of more than 5,000 public housing units that existed before Katrina, under half were available in 2015. FFLIC itself had to relocate to another location amid mixed-use development in its neighborhood.[8]

The foundation’s steady investment in the South region over the last decade is arguably more needed than ever. It demonstrates that long-term sustainable improvement for low-income families is achieved by empowering those communities to act on their own behalf. Policy wins by foundation grantees in the South provide evidence that, when people are mobilized to build power, they stand the best chances at making significant changes at state and local levels.

[1] The State of Obesity website. Adult Obesity in the United States.

[2] Ibid.

[3] The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Poverty Rate by Race/Ethnicity.

[4] Ibid.

[5] BallotPedia, The Encyclopedia of American Politics, Federal aid to state budgets, 2012 – cite_note-federalaid-17

[6] New York Times, August 19, 2014. Where We Came From and Where We Went, State by State.

[7] Business Insider, November 6, 2013. Most Gentrified Cities in America.