Pensacola, Florida
Monday April 22nd 2019

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Outtakes—Sadly Not Surprised

We aren’t giving our poor children a fighting chance to get out of poverty, according to a new study by Harvard professors Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren. In Escambia County, by the time a poor child is 26, he or she will earn $3,870 less than his counterparts elsewhere.

Escambia County is among the worst counties in the U.S. in helping poor children up the income ladder. It ranks 47th out of 2,478 counties, better than only about 2 percent of counties in the country. It is relatively worse for poor boys than it is for poor girls.

After reviewing the study, The New York Times said it would be better for poor families to move to Okaloosa County if they want their children to succeed. Children who move at earlier ages are less likely to become single parents, more likely to go to college and more likely to earn more.

Escambia County is worse than any South Alabama County and any Northwest Florida County. There is only one county in Florida that is worse than Escambia—Gadsden with $3,910.

As harsh as these facts are, they aren’t surprising.

Inweekly has been reporting on the challenges facing our children for years. In February 2012, our “Black &White” issue reported that the disparities in business, education, health and juvenile justice between blacks and whites were huge and had gotten worse over the past 10 years. A third of the African-American lived below the poverty rate, and their median household income was $22,787 less than white households—almost $7,000 worse than in 2000.

Eighteen months before the Studer Community Institute released its “Metro Report,” Inweekly published its “Shame Issue” (Inweekly, Jan. 31, 2013). The message was simple: Nothing will improve unless we face our issues. There simply isn’t enough lipstick that we can put on this pig to make it a beauty queen.

In June 2013, we published the “Hungry Games” that reported over 60 percent of Escambia County public school students, roughly 24,000 children, relied on the school system for at least two free or reduced price meals a day during the school year. During the summer, they were left stringing together church and community center programs to find food.

Unfortunately, little changed after each article was published. Our poverty is a festering sore that we keep trying to hide with a “Smiley Face” bandage.

We need to pay as much attention to our poor children as we do tourism and economic development. Our successes will be hollow until we do.