S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Oct. 7, 2007
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/07.1007.stats.htm

SC still has a long way to go to get out of the basement
By Andy Brack, Publisher

OCT. 7, 2007 - - A look at statistics about South Carolina can be as discouraging as encouraging. In some areas - - the unemployment rate, child poverty and child deaths - - the state has improved marginally. In other areas, such as overall health care and violent crime, things aren't better.

Two years ago, we offered a look at various statistics to highlight how conventional wisdom about the state - - that it ranks high in things that it should be low in, and low in things it should excel in - - was mostly true.

These numbers are important because politicians could use them as motivation to work on the big problems that impact South Carolinians - - health, education and crime - - instead of fiddling with more marginal, hot-button issues to get elected. Here's another big list of lasts and firsts:

Residents' physical health can stand improvements

Face it. Compared to other states, South Carolinians generally aren't a healthy lot:

  • 1st in stroke. The state has the highest rate of stroke victims - 65.2 per 100,000 residents. (National Center for Health Statistics.)

  • 3rd in diabetes. S.C. is tied with Tennessee for the third highest adult diabetes rate (9.4 percent). (Trust for America's Health.)

  • 3rd highest in infant mortality. According to the KidsCount survey, the state went from the fourth worst to third worst in infant mortality rates.

  • 4th in low birthweight babies. Conversely, it went from third worst to fourth worst in low birthweight babies, although the actual rate increased slightly. (KidsCount.)

  • 5th worst place for kids. KidsCount ranks South Carolina as the 46th out of 50 in places for children to grow. Two years ago, it was 45th.

  • 5th in adult obesity. South Carolina is tied with Tennessee in adult obesity with 27.8 percent of the population classified as obese. The state is seventh in the number of overweight children from 10 to 17 (18.9 percent), according to the Trust for America's Health.

  • 6th in hypertension. Almost 30 percent of South Carolinians have hypertension, the sixth-highest rate in the country. (Trust for America's Health).

  • 17th highest in child deaths. An improvement. Two years ago, the state had the seventh highest rate of child deaths (KidsCount.)

  • 18th in no health insurance. Almost 16 percent of South Carolinians don't have health insurance, slightly higher than the national average, according to the National Coalition on Health Care.

Economic indicators mixed

Source: USDA.

South Carolina continues to have high unemployment - - fifth highest in August 2007, compared to fourth highest two years ago. But the rate has dropped from 6.6 percent to 5.6 percent, which is a vast improvement. Other numbers:

  • 10th highest in food stamps. Some 12.4 percent of South Carolinians - - a 3.2 point increase from five years ago - - are on food stamps, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  • 15th in poverty rate. Census figures show some 13.7 percent of South Carolinians live in poverty, a slight dip from two years ago. But some 22 percent of the state's children live in poverty, according to KidsCount - - the 10th highest rate in the country (which is better than the 7th worst ranking two years ago).

  • 49th in per capita growth. The state's per capita economic growth was second-lowest in the nation over the past three years, according to the US Bureau of Economic Research.

Crime, education little changed


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Numbers on crime and education are little changed:

  • 1st in violent crime. Two years ago, the state was second in violent crime; now it is first, according to the FBI.

  • 7th in domestic violence. The state used to be sixth worst in the number of women killed by men. Now it's seventh, the Violence Policy Center said.

  • 49th in police training. A recent USC study highlighted that the state requires the second lowest amount of hours (349) for training police officers.

  • 49th in SAT. The state's SAT ranking remained 49th, compared to two years ago. While the actual average score fell slightly in South Carolina, many educators point out that the SAT ranking isn't an accurate measure of success because some states don't require most of their students to take it, which skews results. They say the National Assessment of Education Standards, which shows S.C. students performing more in the lower middle of the country's scores, is a more accurate gauge.

Bottom line: We can do a lot better, but we need leaders who focus on the big stuff, not specialized issues to help their electability.

Andy Brack, publisher of Statehouse Report, can be reached at: brack@statehousereport.com. If you want to find sources for the statistics above, click here.

Recent commentary

SC's Blenheim ginger ale has cult following

Blenheim ginger ale has its origins in the Marlboro County village of Blenheim. During the late 1890s, Dr. C. R. May began adding Jamaican ginger to the mineral water gathered from a local artesian spring. At the time, wealthy planters were building summer homes in the area. He prescribed the concoction as a palatable digestive aid.

In the early 1900s May joined forces with A. J. Matheson to bottle the non-alcoholic ale. Though the company developed a number of different flavor combinations over the years-including a pineapple-orange soda-the spicy, ginger-flavored soft drink known as Old Number Three has remained the primary product.


S.C. Statehouse Report has partnered with USC Press to provide readers with an interesting weekly historical excerpt about the state. Each excerpt, which is used with permission and not for republication, is taken from The South Carolina Encyclopedia, a 1,077-page book published in 2006 with entries by almost 600 contributors and edited by noted historian Walter Edgar. We hope you enjoy this new feature.

Until 1993, Blenheim Bottling Company avoided any attempts at modernization. Each bottle was taken off the production line and hand shaken to mix the granulated sugar into the ale. That laborious process ended when the Alan Schafer, proprietor of the South of the Border entertainment complex located just south of the North Carolina state line, bought out the bottler and built a modern plant. The old plant closed and production moved to a new home alongside Pedro’s Pleasure Palace and other attractions of South of the Border.

Despite a marketing push that began in the late 1990s and continues today, Blenheim ginger ale is not widely distributed outside the Carolinas. The spicy ale has, however, developed a cult following among food and wine aficionados. In a February 25, 1998 New York Times article, journalists Bill Grimes described the taste in this way: “The first swallow brings on a four-sneeze fit. The second one clears out the sinuses and leaves the tongue and throat throbbing with prickly heat.”

-- Entry by John T. Edge, The South Carolina Encyclopedia

lighter side
Chipped off the block

Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:

9/30: Not for tax breaks

To Statehouse Report:

Just how many tax breaks is the area or state giving to SIMT for creating jobs....Such is a no no.

-- Bob Logan, Little River, SC

Recent feedback

9/18: State needs affordable medical help, birth control, Roxanne Walker, Greenville, SC
Some good points in sex Ed column, Anne Badgley, Charleston, SC
Why insurance companies want to cancel policies, Dan Norfleet, Summerville, SC
Australia is tip of iceberg, John P. Ford, Sumter, S.C.
8/13: Americans have grown apathetic, David Whetsell, Lexington, S.C.
7/30: Queensland has enterprising spirit, Sandra Plock, Sumter, SC
Domestic violence laws may be used wrongly, Marty Hicks, Mount Pleasant, SC
6/26: Brack is inconsistent, Bill Rentiers III, Lexington, SC
6/14: East Edisto would be boon to ACE Basin, Maggie Ridge, Hollywood, SC

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Hard time (for answers)
By Bill Davis, editor
Exclusive from the paid-subscriber issue of Statehouse Report

OCT. 5, 2007 -- Those looking for a little clarity about just what is going on at the state Department of Corrections will probably have to wait another six months, despite the Legislative Audit Council deciding this week to investigate a laundry list of allegations at the department.

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Just a quick note to let you know how you missed out this week. If you were a subscriber to the paid edition of Statehouse Report, you would have received the information below on Friday AND you would have gotten other special features:

  • NUMBER OF THE WEEK: $200 million
  • NEWS: Corrections investigation going slowly
  • AGENDA: More meetings ahead
  • RADAR SCREEN: Hola, Etranger!
  • PALMETTO POLITICS: "PAC" of wolves form over reform
  • BLOGROLL: Bush coming, Dawson going?
  • SCORECARD: Who's up and down for the last week
  • MEGAPHONE: Sorry is the hardest word to say

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Excerpts from The South Carolina Encyclopedia are published with permission and copyrighted 2006 by the Humanities Council SC. Excerpts were edited by Walter Edgar and published by the University of South Carolina Press. No republication is allowed.