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How Katrina changed the face of New Orleans

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In the 10 years since Katrina, New Orleans and the Gulf Coast have been reshaped in many ways: who lives there, the kind of work they do and what they can afford. Being Marketplace, we wanted to “do the numbers” on New Orleans.

Allison Plyer is executive director of the Data Center, a New Orleans-based think tank that publishes the New Orleans Index, a data-based looked at the demographics of New Orleans.

Total city population: Down

“The city has about 384,000 people now. Pre-Katrina, according to the census in 2000, we had about 484,000.”

Population growth: Up

“But every year we gain population. I always remind folks, that’s the most important thing, as long as every year it’s going up, that’s good.”

African-American residents: Down

“Pre-Katrina, about 66 percent of the population was African-American. We’ve lost about 97,000 African-American residents, which was a large chunk, so now, we’re just about 59 percent Africa-American.”

White residents: Down

“We also lost about 9,000 white residents. A lot of folks don’t realize that. But still proportionally now, the city has a larger share of whites, just because of how the African-American population has declined so much.”

Hispanic residents: Up

“We’ve gained about 6,000 Hispanics and a couple thousand Asians. So we’re diverse in a different kind of way than we were pre-Katrina.”

Bus transit: Down

“We used to have a pretty good system of buses, relative to many other cities in the country. Certainly not relative to New York or San Francisco, but relative to other cities. Those buses were flooded, as I think everybody saw. The reimbursement from FEMA was such that we were only able to acquire about one-fifth of the buses we had pre-Katrina. That means we have a lot fewer routes running right now and a lot less frequency. And that’s really hard for a lot of our workers who work in the tourism industry and rely on that.”

Community-based clinics: Up

“There’s been a movement towards community-based clinics that spawned, really, out of Katrina, and has been more effective in supplying primary health care than our previous model, which was all centralized downtown in the [Charity Hospital region]. It delivered a lot of other care really well, but for primary care, this decentralized system of clinics has proven to give more access to low-income communities. And we’re seeing that now in the studies that are coming out.”

Grocery stores: Mixed

“Grocery stores have rebounded to pre-Katrina levels. Tulane just came out with a study on that. Pre-Katrina levels were not as good as they should be, we still have food deserts, but there was a time it was really dire here, in terms of availability of grocery stores.”

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