Human Rights

Katrina Pain Index 2016 by the Numbers: Race and Class Gap Widening

Despite receiving $76 billion in assistance after Katrina, poor people in New Orleans got very little of that help.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Hurricane Katrina hit 11 years ago. Population of the city of New Orleans is down by over 95,000 people from 484,674 in 2000 to 389,617 in 2015. Almost all this loss of people is in the African-American community. Child poverty is up, double the national average. The gap between rich and poor in New Orleans is massive, the largest in the country. The economic gap between well-off whites and low-income African Americans is widening. Despite receiving $76 billion in assistance after Katrina, poor and working people in New Orleans, especially African Americans, got very little of that help.

Here are the numbers.

35. The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority reported that 62 percent of pre-Katrina service has been restored. But Ride New Orleans, a transit rider organization, says streetcar rides targeted at tourists are fully restored, but bus service for regular people is way down, still only at 35 percent of what it was before Katrina. That may explain why there has been a big dip in the number of people using public transportation in New Orleans, down from 13 percent in 2000 to 9 percent now.

44. Over two of every five children in New Orleans lives in poverty—about double the national rate. The current rate of 44 percent is up 3 percentage points from 1999 and up 12 points from 2007. Overall, there are 50,000 fewer children under the age of 18 living in New Orleans than there were in 2000. In 2000 there were 129,408, and the latest numbers have dropped to 79,432 according to the census figures reported by the Data Center.   

50. Since Katrina, home values have risen 54 percent and rent is up 50 percent. The annual household income needed to afford rent in New Orleans is $38,000, but 71 percent of workers earn on average $35,000. The average yearly income for service workers is $23,000 and only $10,000 for musicians. New Orleans has only 47 affordable rental units for every 100 low-income residents. Thirty-seven percent of households in the city are paying half of their income for housing, which is much higher than recommended. 36 percent of renters pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing, up from 24 percent in 2004. The New Orleans metro area ranks second in the top 10 worst metro areas for cash-strapped renters, according to the Make Room Initiative. Government leaders bulldozed over 3,000 apartments of occupied public housing right after Katrina but now say there is a critical immediate need for at least 5,000 affordable low-income apartments.

93. Ninety-three percent of New Orleans’ 48,000 public school students are in charter schools, the highest percentage in the U.S. Before Katrina, there were over 65,000 students enrolled in New Orleans public schools, less than 1 percent in charter schools. There are now 44 governing bodies for public schools in New Orleans. There are seven types of charter schools in Louisiana. The public schools are 87 percent African American. Widespread charter school problems for students with disabilities are getting a little bit better according to a federal court monitor report. The public has very mixed feelings about the system reflected in the most recent poll, which shows 43 percent of whites think the schools are getting better, compared to 31 percent of African Americans; while 23 percent of African Americans thought schools were getting worse, in contrast to 15 percent of whites.   

2,000. Black median income in New Orleans rose from $23,000 in 2005 to $25,000 eight years later, while white median income rose by $11,000 from $49,000 to $60,000 during the same time.

6,811. White population of New Orleans is down from 128,871 in 2000 to 122,060 in 2015 according to the Data Center.  

7,023. Hispanic population in New Orleans grew from 14,826 in 2000 to 21,849 in 2015. There has been significant growth in the Hispanic population in metro New Orleans area from 58,545 in 2000 to 109,553 in 2015, mostly in Jefferson Parish.

64,000. Over 64,000 working women in New Orleans earn less than $17,500 per year. One source of good jobs, working for the school board, was eliminated when 7,500 employees were terminated right after Katrina.   

95,057. The population of the City of New Orleans is 95,057 less in 2015 when it was 389,617, compared to 2000 when it was 484,674, according to the Data Center.   

95,625. There are 95,625 fewer African Americans living in New Orleans (Orleans Parish) now than in the 2000 census, according to census figures reported by the Data Center. The percentage of New Orleans that is African American has dropped from 66 percent to 58 percent. Overall African-American population in New Orleans dropped from 323,000 in 2000 to 227,000 in 2015. Black residents of New Orleans continue to be unfairly and disproportionately stopped and searched by police and also more likely to be arrested for marijuana use than other residents. That situation is even worse for other New Orleans metro residents as Gretna Louisiana, just across the Mississippi River, was recently cited as the arrest capital of the nation.  

2,800,000. The U.S. Department of Justice reported Louisiana has 2.8 million people in its criminal database. There are 4.6 million people in Louisiana.

Last. Louisiana continues to rank dead last in poverty, racial disparities and exclusion of immigrants. But New Orleans has plenty of wealthy people; in fact, Bloomberg ranked New Orleans the worst in the entire country in income inequality. Louisiana also ranks last in national rankings of the quality and safety of school systems. Louisiana incarcerates more of its citizens than any of the other 50 states at a rate double the national average. And Louisiana has the highest health-care costs because of high rates of premature deaths, diabetes, and obesity. In a welcome but too rare piece of good health news, Louisiana’s new governor expanded Medicaid coverage and enrolled 250,000 additional people in the health-care program in July 2016.  

$76 billion came to Louisiana because of Katrina. This information makes it clear who did not get the money.

Special thanks to the Data Center.   

Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer, a professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, and a member of the legal collective of School of Americas Watch. He can be reached at [email protected]


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