The Agenda for a Thriving South

A shared vision statement by Southern members of the
Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN)

EARN in the South logo

Download the full PDF here.

We envision a strong, just, and equitable South, where all workers and families thrive. We believe that by enacting state and local policies throughout the region that strengthen worker protections, enhance worker power, and increase economic security for workers
and their families, we can create an abundant and resilient Southern economy free from the exploitation and inequity of the region’s past. In a unified effort, we will work towards this vision of the South by advancing policy reforms designed to advance economic and racial equity, especially for Black and Brown people in the following areas:

All families in the South should have access to high-quality, safe, accessible, and affordable childcare. We envision a South where childcare providers receive living wages, sustaining benefits, and the respect they deserve for educating and caring for our children.
By improving our childcare system, we will provide a better educational foundation for the region’s children to flourish today and
pursue a full range of career and leadership opportunities tomorrow. An equitable childcare system will help people support their
loved ones and go to work with the assurance that their children are safe and cared for until they return.

Minimum Wage
All Southern workers should be paid enough to lead secure, independent lives, and to save and dream for their household’s future.
We envision an economy in which all workers are guaranteed a livable minimum wage that applies the same to all working people
regardless of status, age, occupation, or industry, and where localities can set minimum wages appropriate to their needs without
fear of state interference or preemption. A fortified wage floor will help people live prosperously and strengthen our economies
over time.

Paid Leave
Every Southerner should be able to care for themselves and their loved ones without fear of losing income or employment during
some of the most important moments of their lives. We envision a resilient South where people are not forced to choose between
their livelihood and the health and well-being of themselves or their loved ones. A strong paid sick, family, and medical leave system
would protect the dignity and humanity of Southern workers by providing time for them and their families to recover from illness or
injury, or bond and care for new family members. Universal paid leave should be the standard so that everyone can be fully present
at home and free to fulfill their duties within the formal and informal workplace.

Unemployment Insurance
Every Southern worker should be protected from hardship and desperation when they lose a job. We envision a robust
unemployment insurance system where all people have adequate, accessible, and reliable benefits where no worker gets left
behind. Jobseekers should have the resources they need to provide for themselves and their families until they can find work
suited for their skills and ambitions. A strong unemployment insurance system protects workers, families, and entire communities by
making sure people can stay afloat during personal and national economic downturns, empowering workers to find the right job, not
just the first one available.

State partners:

  • Alabama Arise
  • Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
  • Every Texan
  • Florida Policy Institute
  • Georgia Budget and Policy Institute
  • Kentucky Center for Economic Policy
  • Louisiana Budget Project
  • North Carolina Budget and Tax Center
  • North Carolina Justice Center
  • Oklahoma Policy Institute
  • One Voice
  • The Commonwealth Institute
  • Think Tennessee
  • West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy

National/Regional Partners:

  • A Better Balance
  • Economic Policy Institute
  • National Skills Coalition
  • Southern Economic Advancement Project


  • Arkansas Public Policy Panel
  • Arkansas Citizens First Congress
  • State Innovation Exchange (SIX)