Delta Directions Consortium
325 Maple Avenue
The Delta Directions Consortium is an interdisciplinary group of individuals from academic institutions, foundations, and community organizations working to improve the health and wealth of the Mississippi Delta. Consortium members include individuals at Mississippi State Social Science Research Center, University of Mississippi Center for Population Studies, University of Mississippi School of Journalism, University of Tennessee Medical Center, Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Law School, and Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, and the Winokur Family Foundation. Delta Directions is coordinated by the Delta Fellow, a joint Mississippi State Social Science Research Center and Harvard Law School position. As director of the Delta Directions Consortium, the Delta Fellow also works with community-based organizations, academic institutions and foundations to create transformational change in the Mississippi Delta region by improving public health and promoting economic development.
The Mississippi Delta consists of a number of counties on either side of the Mississippi River in Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana, that used to be the alluvial floodplain for the river. This land, flat and fertile from years of Mississippi River flooding, created the unique agricultural heritage of the region. The Delta counties have many cultural and historical similarities, including the Delta’s claim to being the birthplace of the Blues.
However, the Delta also suffers many persistent and troubling health, economic, and social problems. The following figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Delta Health Alliance show that the Mississippi Delta’s conditions are among the worst in the nation, often on par with those of some developing countries:
- Nationally, the percent of individuals living below poverty is 12.4%. This rate is 19.9% in Mississippi and 29.16% in the Mississippi Delta.
- Nationally, the median family household income in 2007 was $50,233. Mississippi ranks 50th in the U.S. with regard to household income, at $32,397. This rate is even lower for the Delta.
- Nationally, 19.6% of adults do not have a high school diploma. The percentage of adults in Mississippi without a high school diploma is 27.1%, while 36.48% of adults in the Mississippi Delta lack a high school diploma.
- Nationally, the infant mortality rate is 6.8 per thousand births. The rate in Mississippi is over 10 per thousand, the highest in the nation. The rate is over 17 in some Mississippi Delta counties.
- Mississippi leads the United States in its obesity rate (32.8%), the rate of deaths resulting from cardiovascular disease (rates 30% above the national median), and stroke death rate.
Though these alarming statistics tell a grim story about the Delta, it is not the whole story. The Delta is also ready for change, and there is a large body of talented and committed people in the Delta anxious to make these changes. The work of Delta Directions, the Delta Fellow, and local partners present a unique opportunity for the region to renew itself as a thriving economic and social system, promoting its rich history and culture.