I. Introduction

The economy is booming, and United States citizens are experiencing an unprecedented level of economic prosperity. Median income in the US is $37,800 annually and in 1999 the unemployment rate was 4.2 percent. This is the story of the hot "new" cconomy as reported by the media, despite the fact that its only true for the wealthiest 20 percent of the population.

The United States is a racially and ethnically diverse nation. As of 1999, according to Ameristat, the population was 71.9% White, 12.1% African-American, 11.5% Latino, 3.7% Asian Pacific Islander and .7% Native American. It is here that the story becomes more complex. Just as internationally there is great economic disparity between the nations of North and South as reflected in quality of life indicators like life expectancy, infant mortality, literacy and others, there is also a South within the North.

Nationwide, research indicates that people of color are far more likely to be poor and have a lower quality of life than Whites. African Americans earn 62 percent of the median income for Whites, the lowest median income nationally. Hispanics follow, with 66 percent of the White median income.

While people of color are worse off than Whites in general, people of color in the southern United States have it even worse, as do White people in this region. Project South believes that the worse conditions for southerners are statistically linked to the racial makeup of the region, home to over half (53 percent) of the nations African-American population.

"The South" is defined as the old Southern states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. It is a region that still inspires sad and sickening headlines, when black men are dragged to their death behind pickup trucks or found hanging in their front yards from pecan trees.

Based on statistics from human and civil rights organizations, research institutes, and the government, southerners of all races are more likely to be poor, uneducated, unemployed, incarcerated and politically disenfranchised than in any other part of the country. If they are people of color, they are also more likely than whites to live near a toxic waste dump or an industry producing cancer-causing toxins(1)

In the United States, it is the region where violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) are most evident.

1. Based on a three year average 1996-98.