Study Shows New Orleans in Poverty Crisis

Aug 15, 2012

A new study says New Orleans is in a poverty crisis. The review, commissioned by the Greater New Orleans Foundation and conducted by the Greater New Orleans Comunity Data Center, finds financial trouble extending to the middle class.

The report, entitled “Assets and Opportunities,” shows 37 percent of all New Orleans residents don’t have enough assets to support a household for three months at the federal poverty level if the main source of income is lost. That’s 10 percent higher than the national average.

Foundation President Albert Ruesga says recovery dollars haven’t reduced the poverty level.

“It went down shortly after Katrina because there were so many low-income people who left the region. But really, we’re at the same place we were before the storms, and I think that’s just a great shame.”

Measuring poverty by assets is a new method. Those assets include home ownership, savings accounts, insurance and credit. The study found 71 percent of New Orleans consumers have subprime credit scores. Using Census information, the GNOCDC found 22 percent of the white population faces asset poverty. That number is about double for African Americans and Hispanics in New Orleans.

GNOCDC demographer Allison Plyer says New Orleans’ poverty rate has dropped in national rankings, but only because the recession has slammed other cities.

“We are still 27 percent. Our poverty rate has not changed. But because Detroit, Cleveland and so many other cities' poverty rate has gotten worse, our ranking has fallen to about 18.”

Leaders in non-profits, business, banking and government are now working on a strategy to fight poverty on several fronts, starting with helping people build good credit ratings and helping them take advantage of government and private funding now available to help build assets.