As the Baton Rouge area’s median income hits at an all-time high, its poverty rate is also increasing, according to the Baton Rouge Area Chamber’s 2019 Economic Outlook, which contains annual regional market data.
The report, released this morning, shows residents’ median income increased by 29% between 2007 and 2017, outpacing national and state trends and rising to $57,401 last year. Household incomes had been following an upward trend since 2007, but dipped to $52,487 following the August 2016 flood, and are now rebounding.
Yet despite the income growth, the Capital Region also has the second-highest poverty rate among peer cities—behind only Mobile, Alabama—with 17.5% of its population living below the poverty level. The number increased by 0.9% between 2012 and 2016.
There’s also a gap between whose incomes are increasing. According to the report, the nine-parish Capital Region suffers from a similar racial income inequality that’s seen nationally.
“The disparity is getting smaller, but not at an ideal rate, and the poverty rate going up is certainly tough, with a disparate racial impact,” says Andrew Fitzgerald, senior director of business intelligence at BRAC. “But we’re going to look next year at a lot of different things, including minority and small business assistance. Building wealth in communities is probably the best way to combat the issue, as well as ensuring we have a more robust public education system.”
However, other economic indicators appear strong for the year ahead. Among the report’s key findings:
- Thus far this year, the Baton Rouge area has recorded 1% job growth through October, and will likely meet or exceed BRAC’s projected growth rate of 1.1% for the year.
- BRAC anticipates 1.3% job growth in 2019, which would translate to approximately 5,100 new jobs.
- Baton Rouge is projected to gain approximately 7,000 new residents by 2020, putting its total population at about 847,000 residents.
- All parishes are expected to experience job growth, led by Iberville and Ascension.
- Some 100 local business leaders identified their top concern for 2019 as candidates with unrealistic salary expectations. Last year, their top concern was candidates lacking “soft skills.”