BY ISN STAFF | May 31, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C.—On May 3, Loyola University New Orleans’ Jesuit Social Research Institute (JSRI) issued the 2017 JustSouth Index report and interactive website, revealing that states in the Gulf South of the U.S. all fall near the bottom of the index on measures of social justice. The report was released during a Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill sponsored by Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA).

The JustSouth Index measures and compares states’ performance on nine quantitative indicators that fall under the dimensions of poverty, racial disparity and immigrant exclusion—three of the most challenging issues facing the Gulf South today.

Congressional briefing panelists.

Briefing panelists included two panelists from JSRI, Fred Kammer, S.J., J.D., executive director and Alí R. Bustamante, Ph.D., economic policy specialist. They were joined by Lane Windham, Ph.D., assistant director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University, and James Sullivan, Ph.D., co-founder of the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities at the University of Notre Dame. Speakers discussed the systemic factors that contribute to inequity and innovative approaches for building evidence-informed responses.

Quoting a message given to Pope Francis early in his pontificate by Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Fr. Kammer said the message of the Congressional briefing was simple — “don’t forget the poor.” He went on to say that “this is what the Gospel is all about. This is what our [Congressional leaders] need to constantly remember.”

Jean Denis Saint-Félix, S.J., secretary of the Jesuit Conference Office of Justice and Ecology, shared that his office spearheaded the briefing to substantiate a belief that perspectives from Jesuit institutions of higher education and reports like the 2017 JustSouth Index play a substantial role in shaping public policy and changing the current political narrative on issues of poverty, racism, and immigration. “As the report makes evident,” he explained, “the realities of poverty, racial injustice, and immigrant exclusion are more alive than ever across the United States.”

Fr. Fred Kammer, S.J., speaks at the May 3 Congressional briefing.

“The JustSouth Index serves as a measure of social justice examining key dimensions that must be addressed to improve lives and enhance human dignity,” said Fr. Kammer. “Our purposes, rooted deeply in the Scriptures and Catholic social justice traditions, are to educate the people of this region and to point out how we together can make the kind of changes that promote far greater social justice, equity, and inclusion for all of us who live here.”

“Striving for a socially just society requires critical analyses of the structures of our society to determine if they perpetuate inequity or enhance justice,” JSRI said in the study. “By measuring and comparing all 50 states and Washington D.C. on nine social justice-related indicators, the JustSouth Index provides a strong starting point for determining not only where inequity is most problematic, but also what systemic factors contribute to the inequity.”

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