Economy
12:31 pm
Thu August 29, 2013

New Orleans Index At Eight: Highs And Lows As The City Moves Beyond Rebuilding

Before Hurricane Katrina and the floods that followed, the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center documented neighborhoods, and tracked social and economic indicators in the city.

Since the storm, the center has focused on measuring the city and the region’s recovery, along with national partner the Brookings Institution. It started publishing a report called The New Orleans Index, a set of data that tracks the city’s progress — against its own benchmarks and compared to other places. This year marks the New Orleans Index at Eight.

Many national publications have heralded New Orleans as being in a renaissance. The Index takes a nuanced look at where the city has been, and where it’s going.

Allison Plyer heads the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center. She joined Flozell Daniels Jr. of the Foundation for Louisiana at WWNO to talk about this year’s New Orleans Index. WWNO News Director Eve Troeh led the conversation.

A few facts from the New Orleans Index at Eight, via the GNOCDC:

New Orleans is a smaller city but is still growing.

  • As of July 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau has estimated New Orleans’ population at 369,250, or 76 percent of its 2000 population of 484,674. The metro area, with 1,205,374 residents, has 92 percent of its 2000 population of 1,316,510.
  • According to the Census Bureau, the population of New Orleans and the metro area grew by 2 percent (8,909 people) and 1 percent (13,733 people), respectively, between July 2011 and July 2012.
  • As of June 2013, Valassis, Inc. data on households receiving mail indicates that just over half (37) of New Orleans’ 72 neighborhoods have recovered 90 percent of their June 2005 population, and 13 neighborhoods have more population than they did in June 2005.

The New Orleans metro is taking the first steps toward a new path, with signs of a more competitive economy and expanded amenities.

  • The New Orleans metro has weathered the Great Recession impressively. As of 2012, the New Orleans metro had recovered all its recession-era losses and reached 1 percent above its 2008 employment level while the nation remained 2 percent below its 2008 job level.
  • The New Orleans area has experienced notable growth in knowledge-based industries, including higher education and insurance services, while maintaining older industrial strengths. For example, heavy construction and engineering has expanded significantly and could supply the skilled workforce needed for new economic transformations in the region.
  • Entrepreneurship in the New Orleans metro continues to expand, reaching 501 business startups per 100,000 adults in the three-year period ending in 2012 — a rate that exceeds the nation by 56 percent.
  • During the 2012–13 school year, 63 percent of New Orleans’ public school students attended schools that pass state standards, up from about 30 percent pre-Katrina.
  • Bicycle lanes and pathways are growing exponentially in New Orleans — now at 56.2 miles compared to the 10.7 miles that existed in 2004.

But it’s important to remember that New Orleans has sustained three shocks since 2005: Katrina and the levee failures, the Great Recession, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

  • Single-family home sales in the region fell from 5,826 in the first six months of 2007 to 4,823 during the same months of 2013, reflecting continued weaknesses in the national housing market. Louisiana mortgages in foreclosure have risen from 2.1 percent in December 2008 to 2.7 percent in June 2013.
  • The poverty rate in the New Orleans metro declined from 18 percent in 1999 to 15 percent in 2007, but then increased to 19 percent in 2011, such that it is now statistically unchanged since 1999. In New Orleans itself, the 2011 poverty rate of 29 percent is also statistically the same as in 1999 after falling to 21 percent in 2007.
  • Like the overall poverty rate, child poverty rates in Orleans Parish and the metro area dropped in 2007 but have since increased again to their 1999 level. In 2011, the child poverty rate was 42 percent in the city and 28 percent in the metro, both higher than the U.S. rate of 23 percent.
  • The oil spill and moratorium undercut key industries that drive the New Orleans regional economy such that there are 1 percent fewer natural resources and mining jobs in May 2013 as compared to four years earlier, even as such jobs increased nationally by 25 percent.

Key economic, social, and environmental trends in the New Orleans metro area remain troubling.

  • Adult educational attainment, a key factor influencing success in today’s economy, is not being advanced in the New Orleans metro at the same rate as in the nation, especially for black men, who have experienced no increase since 2000 in the percent obtaining bachelor’s degrees.
  • Post–Katrina housing is unaffordable with 54 percent of renters in the city paying more than 35 percent of their pre–tax income on rent and utilities in 2011, up from 43 percent of renters in 2004.
  • In 2011, the rate of violent crimes per 100,000 residents was 792 in New Orleans, double the 2011 national rate of 386.
  • Between 1932 and 2010, the New Orleans region lost 948 square miles of coastal wetlands, which is nearly 30 percent of the wetlands that protect the New Orleans area from hurricane storm surge.

FEMA dollars are still flowing to localities, but Road Home grants and FEMA trailers are ending. 

  • As of August 2013, FEMA has obligated $10.3 billion for debris removal and infrastructure repairs for the New Orleans metro, with $6.9 billion paid to localities and $3.4 billion still forthcoming.
  • As of August 8, 2013, the state has disbursed $8.99 billion in Road Home grants to 130,009 pre–Katrina homeowners. About 8 applications are still pending.
  • As of July 2012, zero families in Louisiana are living in FEMA trailers, down from more than 70,000 in August of 2006.

The city and region have experienced demographic shifts post–Katrina. 

  • The New Orleans metro area is more diverse than in 2000 with a gain of 40,577 Hispanics and 5,582 additional Asian residents. The Latino population in the metro spiked 69 percent between 2000 and 2012 — a rate greater than the nation's 50 percent growth.
  • In the city, the Census Bureau estimated 103,881 fewer African Americans in 2012 compared to 2000, but also 14,984 fewer whites and 4,830 more Hispanics. Nonetheless, African Americans still represent the majority of the city's population at 59 percent, down from 67 percent in 2000.

Related Program