The Census Bureau has confirmed what everyone already knew: New Orleans is a smaller city that it was in 2000. An article in today’s New York Times points out that while the city was losing residents prior to Katrina, the 2005 storm contributed to the greatest loss of population.
And while somewhat understandable, the numbers are pretty staggering. From 2000 to 2010, New Orleans lost 29% of its population, down from 484,674 to 343,829. It was the 31st largest city in 2000 (down from 24th in 1990) and has now dropped out of the top 50. Over the past decade, New Orleans shed some 24,000 white residents and 118,000 black residents, which means the percentage of white residents has risen to 30%. The black population has dropped from 66% to under 60%. By contrast, the Hispanic population in the city and surrounding parishes has grown significantly.
So where did everyone go and why? St. Tammany Parish to the north and Jefferson Parish to the west have experienced gains in population, while flood-prone St. Bernard Parish, to the east, has lost half of its pre-Katrina population. And clearly, the city’s population loss can be tied to the loss of low cost housing. And while areas near the river, which are higher, have experienced growth, the population of many neighborhoods has shrunk. This is particularly true in poorer neighborhoods, such as the Lower Ninth Ward and parts of New Orleans east. And many fear that until affordable housing is available, many who wish to return will be kept in exile.
And in a budget-conscious climate, the numbers will have an impact. Lower numbers will mean lower Federal dollars for education, housing, transportation projects, etc. And fewer residents will mean legislative redistricting and reduced New Orleans influence in both Baton Rouge and Washington.
So stay tuned. While much of New Orleans appears back to normal, the impact of Hurricane Katrina will be felt for years to come.