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New Orleans Katrina Pain Index at Ten: Who Was Left Behind

New Orleans.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, the nation saw tens of thousands of people left behind in New Orleans.  Ten years later, it looks like the same people in New Orleans have been left behind again.   The population of New Orleans is noticeably smaller and noticeably whiter.   While tens of billions poured into Louisiana, the impact on poor and working people in New Orleans has been minimal.  Many of the elderly and the poor, especially poor families with children, never made it back to New Orleans.  The poverty rate for children who did made it back remains at disturbingly high pre-Katrina levels, especially for Black children.  Rents are high and taking a higher percentage of people’s income.  The pre-Katrina school system fired all it teachers and professionals and turned itself into the charter experiment capital of the US even while the number of children in public schools has dropped dramatically.   Since Katrina, white incomes, which were over twice that of Blacks, have risen three times as much as Blacks.   While not all the numbers below are bad, they do illustrate who has been left behind in the ten years since Katrina hit.

33: Rent in New Orleans is up 33 percent for one bedroom apartments and 41 percent for two bedroom apartments since Katrina hit.   This is very tough because in New Orleans, 55 percent of residents rent.   The national average is 35 percent.  In 2005, one bedroom was $578 and two was $676.  In 2015, it is $767 for one and $950 for two.  CNN/Money recently named New Orleans as one of the worst cities in the US for renters.    Before Katrina the average renter spent 19 percent of its income on rent.  The Data Center, a terrific resource for information on the region, reports 37 percent of renters in New Orleans now spend more than 50 percent of their income to rent.  Rental apartments are mostly substandard as well with 78 percent, nearly 50,000 apartments, in the city needing major repairs.

38: In 2005, 38 percent of the children in New Orleans lived in poverty, 17 percentage points higher than the US as a whole.   The most recent numbers show 39 percent of the children in New Orleans live in poverty, still 17 percentage points higher than the national average.  82 percent of these families have someone working in the family so the primary cause is low wages.

44: New Orleans now has 44 school boards.  Prior to Katrina, nearly all the public schools in New Orleans were overseen by the one Orleans Parish School Board.    91 percent of the public schools in New Orleans are now charter schools, the highest rate in the country.   Only 32 percent of African Americans believe the new nearly all charter school system is better than the public school system before the storm versus 44 percent of whites even though precious few whites attend the public schools.

50: 50 percent of the Black children in New Orleans live in poor households, a higher percentage than when Katrina hit.

59: New Orleans is now 59 percent African American, down from 66.7 percent in 2000; 31 percent white, up from 26 percent in 2000; and 5.5 percent Hispanic, up from 3 percent in 2000.

67: Prior to Katrina, New Orleans incarcerated more of its citizens than any city in the US, five times the national average.  Ongoing efforts by community members and local officials have reduced the number of people held in the jail by 67 percent.

73: 73 percent of New Orleans students who start high school graduate on time.

3221: There are now 3221 fewer low income public housing apartments in New Orleans than when Katrina hit.  In 2005 there were5,146 low income public housing apartments in New Orleans, plus thousands of other public housing apartments scheduled for renewal or maintenance, nearly 100% African American.  The housing authority now reports having 1925 public housing apartments available for low income people on the sites of the demolished complexes, less than half of the number promised, and less than half of those completed have rents set at rates which are affordable to those who lived in public housing before Katrina, meaning the majority of their public housing units now require higher incomes from renters than the people who were living in public housing prior to Katrina.  That is why only about half of the families who lived in the four public housing developments which were demolished after Katrina made it back to New Orleans at all by 2011.  And only 7 percent of those original families were living in the new housing which replaced their homes.

6,000: There are 6,000 fewer people on Social Security in Orleans Parish than before the storm.   Orleans parish had 26,654 people on Social Security, either old age or disability, in 2004.  Orleans parish had 20,325 people on Social Security in the latest report.   There are similar drops in the numbers of people on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in New Orleans.  There were just over 3,000 families receiving state temporary assistance in New Orleans in May 2005.  As of May 2015, that number was down to 463.

7,500: Over 7,500 public school teachers and paraprofessionals, mostly African American, were fired after Katrina when Louisiana took over the New Orleans public school system.  The US Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal in May 2015.

9,000: There are 9,000 fewer families receiving food stamps than before.  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the old food stamps program.   In May 2015, Orleans Parish had just under 40,000 households receiving SNAP benefits.   In May 2005, New Orleans had 49,000 households receiving food stamps.

17,392: There are 17,392 fewer children enrolled in public schools in New Orleans now than before Katrina.  There were over 63,000 enrolled pre-Katrina and now there are 45,608.

35,451: The median income for white families in New Orleans is $60,553; that is $35,451 more than for Black families whose median income was $25,102.   In the last ten years the median income for Black families grew by 7 percent.  At the same time, the median income for white families grew three times as fast, by 22 percent.  In 2005, the median income for Black households was $23,394, while the median for white households was $49,262. By 2013, the median income for Black households had grown only slightly, to $25,102. But the median for white households had jumped to $60, 553.

44,516: The New Orleans metro area (Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, and St. Tammany Parishes) has 44,516 more Hispanic residents in 2013 than in 2000.  The total is now 103,061, just over 8 percent of metro population according to The Data Center.

71,000: Seventy one thousand fewer people live in New Orleans now than before the storm.  In 2005, New Orleans had a population of 455,000 and in 2014 its population was 384,000.

99,650: There are 99,650 fewer African Americans living in New Orleans now than in 2000, compared to 11,000 fewer whites.

71,000,000,000: Seventy one billion dollars was received by the State of Louisiana for Katrina repairs, rehabilitation and rebuilding.  One look at this index and you see who did NOT get the money.

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Bill Quigley teaches law at Loyola University New Orleans and can be reached at quigley77@gmail.com.

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