OUR OPINION: Census statistics provide broad, useful information

Changes in some important factors in Tupelo’s economic base should be viewed as useful information from the U.S. Census rather than as a reason for any kind of uncoordinated response or any other change in strategy not grounded in a carefully developed long-range outlook.

Daily Journal reporter Robbie Ward reported in Sunday’s edition that the most recent American Community Survey (for the period 2010-2012) documented some significant changes in demographic facts about Tupelo’s community profile. The changes, however, aren’t necessarily unexpected in light of larger demographic trends like an aging population hand-in-hand with increased longevity.

The Social Security Administration offered this nationwide statistical perspective earlier in 2013:

• In 1940, the life expectancy of a 65-year-old was almost 14 years; today it is more than 20 years.

• By 2033, the number of older Americans will increase from 45.1 million today to 77.4 million.

• There are currently 2.8 workers for each Social Security beneficiary. By 2033, there will be 2.1 workers for each beneficiary.

The ACS found during the 2010-2012 measuring period 31.1 percent of households (13,583) in Tupelo, not the same figure as population, receiving some kind of Social Security benefit.

An increase in the number of young-adult-families-with-children in owner-occupied houses would not reduce the number of older or disabled people on Social Security, but it could lower their percentage of households in the total population.

The American Community Survey also found that the number and overall percentage of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants in Tupelo had risen to 19.6 percent, which is higher than previous counts but lower than Mississippi’s highest-in-the-nation 22.1 percent as of Nov. 5.

Mississippi’s population is projected at 2.984 million; the August 2013 number of SNAP clients in Mississippi stood at 671,774, increasing by a small percentage in both July and August.

Tupelo’s economy finds its challenges across a broad spectrum of concerns: housing quality and quantity, neighborhood strength, young family growth, and jobs with strong wages, especially in manufacturing, a sector where declines have been linked to different situations and off-shore factors for decades.

Tupelo’s situation calls for a broadly based, deeply supported response capable of addressing and gaining ground against multiple concerns.