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Voices of minorities are likely to be more powerful than ever in Mississippi this year

State Treasurer Lynn Fitch speaks about the positive nature of economic education for public school children during her address at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss., Thursday. She’s also a big supporter of Ready to Run, an outreach program for women in politics.
State Treasurer Lynn Fitch speaks about the positive nature of economic education for public school children during her address at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss., Thursday. She’s also a big supporter of Ready to Run, an outreach program for women in politics. AP File

The United States continues to grow more diverse, particularly when it comes to newborns, the latest data from the Annie B. Casey Foundation Kids Count shows.

In 2015, the latest year that a full year’s worth of data is available, about 15 percent of the 4 million babies born were black, another 23 percent were Hispanic and another 8 percent a race other than white. Fifty-four percent were white. Kids Count predicts white births will be in the minority next year and the whites will be in the minority by 2044.

That’s not particularly good news for Republicans, whose party relied heavily on white voters for its 2017 presidential victory. There are those who don’t like me pointing that out. But I was at those early rallies by President Donald Trump. It was as clear as white and, uh, white.

Determining how the races voted is an inexact science at best. For instance, Mississippi just asks potential voters for their names, addresses, date of birth and driver’s license number (or the last four digits of the Social Security number for those without a license) when they register. About the only way to gather racial data is through exit polls at the voting places.

The Pew Research Center found that Hillary Clinton won the black vote 80 percent to 20 percent, while Trump won the non-Hispanic white vote 58 percent to 37 percent. A shift away from a majority white country will make it harder to win with so little minority support.

In Mississippi, the birth trend has been fairly stable, with births to white women at 51 percent in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015. They rose to 52 percent in 2012. Births to black women have been consistent across those years at 43 percent. And, the number of births declined in that same period from 39,860 to 38,394.

In that respect, Mississippi was on par with Arkansas but far behind neighbors Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee.

Mississippi, at 54 percent, also was far above the national average, 41 percent, for births to unmarried women. In America, the births to unmarried mothers have increased 43 percent since 1990.

That’s not good news for a state with a lot of poverty.

“Women who give birth outside of marriage tend to be more disadvantaged than their married counterparts, both before and after the birth,” researchers at the nonpartisan Child Trends wrote in a 2014 report. “Unmarried mothers generally have lower incomes, lower education levels, and are more likely to be dependent on welfare assistance compared with married mothers.”

The best news was a majority of women giving birth were in relationships that likely would lead to marriage. Even after their parents marry, those children are more likely to be disadvantaged socially and economically, Child Trends found.

Which could help explain why there are relatively few women in Mississippi Legislature and other offices.

In Mississippi in this year’s session, there were 44 women among the 174 members of the Legislature. That’s right, 13.8 percent. In a state that has a slightly larger percentage of women than men.

Search the internet for answers about why that gap is so high and the first thing you’ll learn is it’s not just politics. Women are underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. They are underrepresented in the corporate boardroom. In philosophy. And in the media.

As far as politics, no one has entirely resolved the mystery of the representation gap.

A report, The Status of Black Women in Politics, concluded that voting laws and attitudes of political parties both help keep black women out of office and suggest an overhaul of voting laws and outreach programs.

In Mississippi, outreach could be the key. There hasn’t been much appetite for early voting and changing laws such as voter ID that seem to hold down the black vote.

In Mississippi, Republican and Democratic women have begun that outreach. Its big event is coming in a little less than three weeks, when Ready to Run Mississippi comes to Jackson. The all-day recruitment and training program begins at 7:30 a.m. Aug. 29 at the Hilton Jackson Hotel on County Line Road. Tickets ($25 + 2.37 fee) will give women access to the Women of Color in Mississippi Breakfast and workshops on launching campaigns, finding your political voice, navigating the parties, how to lobby, digital strategies and fundraising.

Here’s hoping it sells out.

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton

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