While David Letterman did not invent them, he popularized “Top Ten” lists on his late-night show. Letterman used the lists for both comedic fodder as well as commentary about the times, often poking fun at the latest politician’s snafu or pop culture oddity. Since Letterman retired, our love for ranking people, places and things has only increased in its intensity. In fact, it seems these days everyone is a critic. While constructive criticism can be valuable, critique without context or suggestion does little to assist the critiqued to make positive changes.
On Oct. 10, Community Foundation of North Louisiana presented its 11th annual data report, Community Counts, to a packed house of civic leaders, nonprofit representatives, and engaged citizens. Each year data for the Shreveport-Bossier Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is collected and tracked in six categories – Population, Economics, Human Capital, Health, Social Environment, and Physical Environment – and then measured against ten comparative communities. Accurate data is essential to help our community set priorities, track progress, formulate policy, and allocate resources. The scientific collection of data over time reveals emerging trends of both progresses made versus areas in our MSA needing more attention.
As Community Counts is now in its eleventh year, several 10-year trends emerged demonstrating both areas of need and positive change. The following positive results show bright spots where Shreveport-Bossier is succeeding.
Education – In 2015, 39.8% of 3- and 4-year-old children were enrolled in school. That number increased significantly to 49.7% in 2016 and then to 59.1% in 2017. Of the ten comparative communities, Shreveport-Bossier was ranked first in 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in school. As 90% of a child’s brain develops before age 5, early childhood learning has lifelong positive impacts, including allowing children to begin school “kindergarten ready” which in turn increases their likelihood for educational success and high school graduation. This increase in preschool enrollment is a promising sign for the future of Shreveport-Bossier.
Health – A promising sign for the future health outcomes of Shreveport-Bossier is that the percent of uninsured citizens is at a record low of 7.3% (2017), down from 17.1% ten years prior. Again, Shreveport-Bossier ranked number one against the ten comparative communities!
Other trends demonstrate areas of concern.
Economics – While the Shreveport-Bossier MSA saw growth in median household income from 2006 to 2015, that trend reversed in 2016 and 2017. In 2007 the median household income was $38,975 and ended slightly lower in 2017 at $38,627.
Poverty – The percent of families below the poverty line dropped from 21% in 2007 to 18.6% in 2017. However, in 2017 still more than one third (36.7%) of families with children under 5 were living in poverty. Children in poverty are at a greater risk of poor academic performance, dropping out of school, behavioral or physical problems, and developmental delays. Thus, programs that assist in removing the barriers to educational success that exist for children in poverty are a funding priority for CFNLA.
Health – Low birth weight is the percentage of live births in which an infant weighed less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. The overall low birth rate in Louisiana of 10.9% is one of the highest in the nation. The Shreveport-Bossier MSA’s rate in 2017 was even higher at 13.3%. Low birth weight can result in cognitive development problems and even an overall shorter lifespan. This is a preventable health crisis that should be addressed as a high community priority.
While Shreveport-Bossier has issues that need our attention and intervention, we must also take time to celebrate our victories as a community. Keep up the hard work Shreveport-Bossier and our results will be even better in ten years. To view the executive summary and full Community Counts reports, visit cfnla.org/data.
This article was written by CFNLA CEO Kristi Gustavson and originally published in the Shreveport Times on November 4, 2019.