Friday, June 09, 2006

New Orleans Before and After

Most of the time, demographic change occurs at a plodding pace. Some even say demography is dull. But a look at the before and after demographics of the New Orleans metropolitan area is anything but dull. To witness demographic upheaval on this magnitude in the United States is a once in a lifetime opportunity—or at least we hope so.

Following Hurricane Katrina, FEMA designated 117 counties as disaster areas. In a special effort to determine just what happened to the population in those areas, the Census Bureau took its 2005 American Community Survey, fielded each year throughout the U.S., and broke it into two pieces in the 117 disaster counties—the eight months before Katrina (January through August 2005) and the four months following Katrina (September through December 2005). The results of the analysis are available in detail here. Below are some of the more astonishing changes in the New Orleans metropolitan area during 2005.

Population (in the 8 months) before Katrina: 1,190,615
Population (in the 4 months) after Katrina: 723,830
New Orleans lost a stunning 466,785 people, or 39 percent of its population.

Civilian labor force before Katrina: 599,172
Civilian labor force after Katrina: 342,625
New Orleans lost more than a quarter million workers, or 43 percent of its labor force.

People enrolled in school before Katrina: 312,899
People enrolled in school after Katrina: 170,269
The number of students in metropolitan New Orleans plunged 46 percent.

Blacks as a share of the metropolitan area before Katrina: 37 percent
Blacks as a share of the metropolitan area after Katrina: 22 percent
The white share of the population grew from 59 to 73 percent.

Percentage of people living in poverty before Katrina: 16.9 percent
Percentage of people living in poverty after Katrina: 12.7 percent
Median household income climbed from $39,793 to $43,447.

Households with no vehicles available to them before Katrina: 13.6 percent
Households with no vehicles available to them after Katrina: 5.8 percent

P.S. It is impressive that the Census Bureau is collecting this type of information at all. It is remarkable that the bureau is flexible enough to change procedures in midstream and provide us with a database of such historic importance.

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