2013 Briefing Book on the South

If you want to really get a good idea about what’s happening throughout the South, you need to look at more than one statistic on poverty or another on obesity.  You get a fuller picture by looking at data across many statistical indicators.

That’s what the 2013 Briefing Book on the South seeks to do.  The Center for a Better South, a pragmatic, nonprofit regional think tank, has assembled 38 indicators and more than 90 data points for each state from an array of sources to paint a picture of the region that may give people some reasons to pause and reflect.

2013: Click here to download the 58-page 2013 Briefing Book on the South (2 MB, PDF)

2011: Click here to download the 2011 Briefing Book on the South

2009: Click here to download the 2009 Briefing Book on the South

The Briefing Book, now in its third edition, is a unique resource to help  policymakers, influential community leaders, academics and journalists better understand what’s happening now throughout the South.  The data suggest the South is a diverse economic engine that continues to face educational, environmental, poverty, health and other challenges brought on, in large part, by a long period of neglect following the Civil War.

Playing catch-up

While today’s South is far better off than 50 years ago, it generally continues to play catch-up with the rest of America.  As Southern states in recent years invested more and more to get on par with the rest of America, states in other regions did not sit idly by.  They too invested.  So as the South improved, other states did also, generally keeping Southern states where they don’t want to be — at the bottom of national lists of rankings in multiple areas found throughout this Briefing Book.

Today, more than 150 years after shots were fired onto Fort Sumter in Charleston, the states of the American South still have a statistical hangover — a Civil War hangover — compared to other areas of the country.  You can clearly see this Civil War hangover in the data.  And if you want to see a visual representation, we encourage you to visit our Southern Crescent project, a photo-filled Web site with images from mostly rural areas of the South that are forgotten by roaring Southern engines like Atlanta, Charlotte and coastal dynamos fueled by tourism.

We hope thinking Southern leaders will consider the data and redouble efforts to leapfrog our region away from the bottom through creative policy efforts that will improve education and health care, while reducing poverty and unemployment.

Organizational structure

The Briefing Book is organized in four sections:

A.  Snapshot of the South — A three-page summary that compares major data indicators in the South.

B.  State snapshots — Page-long summaries of all of the data for each state found in Section C.

C.  State data — Detailed descriptions of indicators with links to sources.

D.  Sources — A comprehensive list of the sources used for our data indicators.

A note on the data

The Center collected data in the summer and fall of 2013 to complete this Briefing Book.  We highly recommend that anyone who uses the data to check with the online primary sources listed for each indicator in Section D, Sources.  Not only is it possible that you’ll get a more recent statistic, but you will be able to double-check any statistic you plan to use.

In advance, please accept our apologies for any transcription errors.  If you find an error in this document, please let us know.  Thank you.

Andy Brack, president, Center for a Better South, Oct. 3, 2013

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