A report by the Brookings Institute shows that New Orleans has become more "resilient" than it was before Hurricane Katrina based on measures of civic capacity.
But not everyone is better off, with poorer New Orleanians increasingly being pushed out to the suburbs, or leaving the city altogether, says the report. And disparities of opportunity persist along racial lines.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced the report at city hall this morning along with Amy Liu, Deputy Director and co-founder of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, and Allison Plyer, Deputy Director of the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center.
Liu (right) points to statistics, accompanied by Plyer and Mayor Landrieu this morning.
The report found that despite suffering from Hurricane Katrina, the national recession, and now, the BP oil disaster, New Orleans has been rebounding over the last five years, with the city back to a population of 354,850, almost 78 percent of pre-Katrina population levels. There was relatively mild job loss in the recession compared to other cities, and there is emerging growth in the Crescent City's "knowledge-based" industries like higher education, legal services, and insurance diversifying the city's economy from traditional industries like tourism, oil and gas, and shipping and ship building.
There have been strides made in citizen involvement, public education and community-based health care since Katrina, according to the report.
The number of poor people living in in Orleans Parish has halved to 68,000, with median household incomes rising to $47,585 just as household incomes declined nationally over the same period. There is a healthier share of middle class families downtown. However, these statistics are largely a result of people leaving the city after Katrina and not returning, said Plyer. There are now 93,000 people living in poverty in the six surrounding parishes around Orleans Parish "suburbanization of poverty is actually a national trend," Plyer said and there is a growing disparity in income in the greater New Orleans area, with African Americans earning 44 percent less, and Latinos earning 25 percent less, than whites.
New Orleans needs to develop a diversified economy, an educated workforce, wealth to be strategically invested in a crisis, social cohesion, and community problem solving abilities, if it is to transform itself going forward, said Liu.
"This is the first time New Orleans has had a really clear look at where she stands," said Mayor Landrieu. "This is not just about helping some folks down South. Rebuilding New Orleans is important to the United States of America. We're the place where the United States is going to find herself."
The mayor was asked what implementation steps are in place to move forward on the report, and said the first step is for the community to "read and digest it."