Congressional seats on the line as Black Belt, state look to grow
Tuscaloosa, Ala. – Alabama could lose at least two congressional seats in 2030 due to economic and population declines in the Black Belt, concluded a report recently released by the Education Policy Center at the University of Alabama. The report follows recent announcements by Gov. Ivey and the Delta Regional Authority to invest in the region.
In August, the labor force participation—the number of Alabama residents age 16 and older actively looking for work or employed—was 58 percent. However, in the 24 counties that make up the Black Belt, labor participation was 40 percent, nearly 20 points below the statewide average. The counties with the lowest rates were Barbour, Clarke and Wilcox, while Shelby, Tuscaloosa and Madison counties had the highest rates.
As Alabama enters the post COVID-19 economy where working from home and virtual learning is increasing, access to broadband for businesses and residents will be critical. Approximately 12,000 additional Black Belt residents have sought employment since the pandemic began.
Research in the report recommended a comprehensive strategy to address issues in the Black Belt, including partnerships with community colleges and local high schools to provide apprenticeships in high demand careers including welding and nursing. Additional education funding, along with more targeted use of state dollars, was also recommended.
The recommendations are aligned with recent investments in infrastructure projects in the Black Belt made by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs in August and the Delta Regional Authority in September 2020.