COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Poverty rates in Mississippi have been among the highest in the nation for decades. Now new data released shows the numbers aren’t improving much especially for the children. Mississippi State researcher Colleen McKee spoke to the Columbus Rotary Club, providing the latest data on how Mississippi’s children are progressing.
“Mississippi has the 2nd highest teen birth rate in the nation. The rate is 50.2 per 1,000 live births. I can tell you that a study that was conducted by the Mississippi Economic Policy Center found that $155 million is spent each year on teen pregnancy,” says McKee.
Teen pregnancy is a major factor in Mississippi’s high child poverty rate. Mississippi Kids Count researchers conducted a survey with nearly 4,000 parents, concluding that most parents believed sex education in schools would be helpful.
“What we found was that 92% of parents supported sex education in the schools at age appropriate grade levels,” says McKee.
Yet in 2012, only 48% of Mississippi schools had adopted Abstinence-Plus education. Columbus Rotary Club Member and Educator Kate Brown says just knowing the statistics is good for future planning.
“It’s always a bit disheartening to hear that we are 49 in 50 in the country. But we know that we have our work cut out for us. I think hearing presentations like we did today help us understand the depth of our problems and also gives us some direction on where we need to go,” says Brown.
Mississippi now ranks 49th in the country in overall child well-being, one step up since 2011. The report also noted that Mississippi children living in poverty is now double the national average.