A couple of weeks ago (“The Incredible Shrinking City”), I reported on the fact that according to the 2010 Census the population of New Orleans dropped 29% during the decade. And while the city’s population has been in decline since the 1960s, clearly Hurricane Katrina was the primary ingredient in such a drop.
Of course, this reality did not stop Newsweek from putting New Orleans atop of the list of “America’s Dying Cities.” They used census data to document significant drops in both overall population and the population of those under the age of 18. New Orleans finds itself in the not-so-good company of Vallejo, CA, Detroit, MI, Rochester, NY, and Cleveland, OH. And the folks in New Orleans are not happy.
At the same time, a lesser known online magazine, newgeography, has used census data to show that New Orleans is first in attracting college-educated migrants, although many might just be former residents finding their way back. And while that is good news, it shows, as civic leaders have pointed out, the danger of using census data out of context . And it’s pretty obvious that the bad news from Newsweek will carry further than anything from newgeography (although it’s possible that newgeography is in better financial shape than its more august rival).
For one, Mayor Mitch Landrieu has come out swinging. Citing low unemployment, a high rate of investment in infrastructure, and steady population growth, the Mayor is fighting the claim that New Orleans is a “dying city.” He points out in today’s Times-Picayune that New Orleans is coming back from the point of nearly being emptied of its population in September 2005; and as the century enters its second decade, the population is steadily rising.
And while Mitch has vociferously made his case, the Newsweek column clearly stuck in his craw. I don’t think we’ve heard the last word on this one.