Louisiana boasts five of the fifteen busiest United States ports, affordable land, plentiful natural resources, and unparalleled food and culture. In many ways, it should be the envy of the nation and the world. Instead, the state ranks near the bottom for many positive metrics, and near the top for many negative ones. For example:

• Louisiana’s poverty rate stands at nearly 20%,1 the highest in the nation, with more than 800,0002 people receiving non-health-care-related government aid and 44% enrolled in Medicaid.
• The percentage of working-age adults participating in the workforce (those either working or looking for work) is 58.9%, which is ninth worst in the country.3
• Economic growth in Louisiana continues to be sluggish, with GDP consistently lower than the United States4 as a whole. In the first quarter of 2023, it was 1.4%,5 putting it at 31st in the country for economic output 6
• Louisiana has the second-highest youth disconnection rate in the United States (17.7%), defined as the percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds neither working nor in school.7
• While the number of violent crimes committed in the state has begun to fall,8 crime and recidivism—the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend—remain extremely high.9

Frustrated with the above realities, those who can leave our state are doing so, relocating to places like Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Texas to find work and opportunity. Louisiana has the third highest net outmigration rate in the country, meaning more people are leaving the state than moving in. The only states with worse outmigration are Illinois and New York.10

While several factors have contributed to these challenges, much of it comes down to poor public policy decisions. The way Louisiana organizes and delivers safety nets and workforce services sets them up to fail. Rather than developing and executing a well-designed, fully integrated system to point individuals toward successful, sustainable outcomes, Louisiana has allowed a complex, inefficient, and fragmented system to persist, leaving its people no better off.

As our state transitions to new leadership in the coming months, overhauling how we tackle poverty and address workforce needs must be a high priority. Thankfully, there’s a proven case study and examples from other states that Louisiana’s new governor and legislature can look to for guidance. This brief is a beginning strategy for achieving the Louisiana Comeback we desperately need.

1 https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/LA
2 https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/BR22000LAA647NCEN
3 https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/LBSSA22
4 https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=12YOl
5 https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=12YOn
6 https://pelicanpolicy.org/the-economy-isnt-all-that-rosy-louisiana-economic-situation-october-2023/
7 https://ssrc-static.s3.amazonaws.com/moa/EnsuringAnEquitableRecovery.pdf
8 https://www.smartoncrimela.com/blog/violent-crime-is-falling-in-louisiana
9 https://www.fbi.gov/news/press-releases/fbi-releases-2022-crime-in-the-nation-statistics
10 https://taxfoundation.org/data/all/state/state-population-change-2022/