The Full Story

4 June 2004

Insulting Your Intelligence Once Again
by Craig J. Cantoni
June 3, 2004

Is it possible to pick up the newspaper and not have your intelligence insulted? Not today.

The headline on the front page of the local section of today’s Arizona Republic reads: ”State ranks 45th in kids’ well-being.” The accompanying story quotes a study by the left-leaning Annie E. Casey Foundation and quotes the director of the left-leaning Children’s Action Alliance. It did not quote anyone with a different perspective and ideology.

The story cites a high dropout rate, a high teen birth rate, a high child death rate, the percentage of children in poverty and the percentage of children in single-family homes as the primary causes of the state’s low ranking. It also lists the five states with the best ranking (Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Iowa, Utah) and the six states with the worst ranking (Arizona, South Carolina, Alabama, New Mexico, Louisiana, Mississippi). Surprisingly, unlike many previous stories on the subject, today’s story did not imply that the low ranking is due to cheapskate, heartless Republican legislators who don’t want to raise social spending and taxes.

So where was the insult to intelligence?

It was the fact that the story did not mention the role that race plays in the states with high rankings and in the states with low rankings. Because of political correctness, ignorance, laziness, a leftist bias or whatever, race wasn’t mentioned at all. Thus, readers did not get the full story.

Let me fill in the missing piece.

Putting New Jersey aside for a moment, four of the five states with the best rankings are overwhelmingly white, ranging from 89% white in Utah to 96% white in New Hampshire. Four of the six states with low rankings have large black populations, ranging from 25% black in Alabama to 36% black in Mississippi. Two of the states with low rankings, Arizona and New Mexico, have large Hispanic (really Mexican) populations, at 25% for Arizona and 40% for New Mexico, and large Native American populations, at 5% for Arizona and 9% for New Mexico.

At first, New Jersey seems like an anomaly. It ranks in the top five but has a white population of only 69%. But having lived in the Garden State and being honored as ”Community Service Volunteer of the Year” by a major Gannett newspaper there, I know the state very well and understand that it really isn’t an anomaly. First, 5% of the state is Asian, mostly from the subcontinent of India. Second, a significant percentage of its Hispanic population, unlike New Mexico and Arizona, is Puerto Rican and Cuban. Third, the white population consists of a lot of old money, a large professional class and relatively few lower-income transients, unlike New Mexico and Arizona. When people get divorced in other states and look for a place to start a new life, they tend to move to the Southwest and not to New Jersey, where housing is expensive. Such factors also explain why New Jersey ranks near the top in per-capita income.

In other words, both low and high rankings are mostly the products of racial demographics, immigration patterns and socioeconomic legacies. And that, as Paul Harvey says, is the rest of the story.

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