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Report takes economic look at parish

Tuesday, January 21, 2020
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Leader photo by NANCY BERGERON
            Dave Norris, Louisiana Tech University’s chief research and innovation officer, explains some of the economic data contained in the Ruston section of the 2019 Community Counts report. Community Counts is a project of the Shreveport-based Community Foundation of North Louisiana.

Lincoln Parish ranks high in educational attainment, but also in the percentage of families living below the federal poverty line.

That’s according to Ruston area statistics contained in the 2019 Community Counts report. Community Counts is a project of the Shreveport-based Community Foundation of North Louisiana.

The Ruston area report looks at economic, education, health and crime and safety data from pre-2010 to 2017, the latest year for which information was available. The report doesn’t analyze the data.

The hope is that the results will help community and government leaders identify crucial needs in their communities and how they might wish to address them, said Emily Smith, CFNLA’s director of marketing and communications.

For the Ruston community, those needs include poverty, a rising rate in infant mortality and an increase in the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia, said Louisiana Tech University Chief Research and Innovation Officer Dave Norris.

Norris, along with his wife, Amanda, compiled the report.

According to the 2017 numbers, 19% of parish families rank below the poverty level. Though that’s a slight drop from 19.7% in 2016, it’s still higher than the 16.7% tallied in 2009.

The federal poverty level varies based on household size. In 2017, that level was $24,600 for a family of four.

The poverty level jumps to 40% in families with children under age 5, Norris said. The level hits the 75% range for single female heads of household with children under age 5, he said.

“It says we have a poverty problem here,” Norris said.

The health statistics show the chlamydia rate has risen to almost 1 in every 100 people.

“That’s a high rate, and it’s an expensive problem to have,” Norris said.

Infant mortality has also increased from approximately 767 per 100,000 in 2016 to 869 per 100,000 in 2017. But teenage birth rates among girls ages 15 to 19 continues to drop, albeit slightly.

In 2007, the rate was 27%; in 2016, 21% and in 2017, 21%.

The data shows the percentage of uninsured parish adults has dropped from almost 19% in 2012 to 12.4% in 2017. Norris attributed the decline to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

But he cautioned that as the ACA is dismantled, the number of uninsured is likely to rise.

Meanwhile, Lincoln Parish continues to set high marks in education. Norris said the 95.7% of students who enter ninth grade graduate in four years.

The report also shows 36% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

“Louisiana’s aspiration for the whole state is to be like Ruston,” Norris said.

As to crime and safety, the report shows violent crime trending down from 2016 to 2017, but property crime trending up.

Numbers cited in the Ruston Community Counts reports come from a variety of sources including the U.S. Census Bureau, Louisiana Office of Public Health, Louisiana Believes Data Center and FBI Uniform Crime Report.