Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Numbers Day in Kentucky

Kentucky Passes Texas in high school graduation rates: Like a lot of Southern states, Kentucky has long uttered the grateful prayer "thank god for Mississippi" because Mississipi is usually at the bottom of education, health, and income statistics. Today, we're celebrating that fact that we have also passed Texas. The Lexington, KY Herald-Leader released some numbers today on percentage of population with a high school education. With a 79% high school graduation rate, Kentucky has moved ahead of Texas but is still 49th in the country. Kentucky has made a big effort to increase high school graduation rates since the passing of education reform in 1990, but still suffers from previous generations of neglect. The situation is particularly bad in Eastern Kentucky where high school dropout rates are often over 20%.

Kentucky No. 2 in disabilities. Almost one-fith of the adult population in Kentucky is listed as disabled with only West Virginia having more people with disabilities. Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama--three other members in good standing of the Southern poverty belt--are right up there as well. In Kentucky, high levels of disability are driven primarily by the hazards of coal mining (probably logging as well), efforts to get around welfare reform, high levels of smoking, lousy diets, and the general effects of poor health. Some people become disabled because of poor health habits that are handed down through their families. That fits the Southern stereotype. At the same time, I know several women who are on the road to disability from strokes and diabetes from the super-human sacrifices they make in caring for and worrying about their families. Moderation is a tough sell in Kentucky and physical breakdowns are one of the results.

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