by Bill Quigley
(TriceEdneyWire.com) — Eight years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans’ African-American neighborhoods, the number of blacks who still live in the city is smaller and in some cases, they are worse off than before the storm hit. New Orleans, which is known for its good times and good food, remains incredibly poor and 100,000 of its residents have never returned.
Jobs and income vary dramatically by race. Rents are up, public-transportation ridership is down, traditional-public housing is gone, life expectancy differs dramatically by race and residential location, and most public schools have been converted into charter schools.Hurricane Katrina, a category 5 storm — the most-devastating level of hurricane — struck New Orleans on August 29, 2005. The storm and the ways it hindered the government’s response to the crisis is well documented. Over one thousand people died. Now, thanks to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center (GNOCDC) and other organizations, it is possible to document the current situation in New Orleans. Although some elected officials and chambers of commerce tout the positive aspects of post-Katrina New Orleans, widespread hardship and injustice remain.
New Orleans has lost nearly 86,000 people since Katrina, according to the U. S. Census. The population now consists of 369,250 residents, down from 455,000 prior to the storm. Nearly half of the African-American men in the city are not working as the city’s job base continues to shrink, according to the GNOCDC. There is, however, good news. Fifty-three percent of African-American men in the New Orleans area are currently employed. African-American households in the metropolitan New Orleans area realized incomes 50 percent less than those earned by white households. Jobs continue to move from New Orleans to the suburbs. In 2004, the city provided 42 percent of metro’s 247,000 jobs. Now that number has dropped to 173,000, and the precent of jobs provided by New Orleans is 34 percent. Low-paid tourism jobs, averaging $32,000 a year, continue to be the largest sector of work in New Orleans. But even this low average can be misleading as the hourly average for food preparation and serving jobs in the area is just over $10.00 an hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Median earnings for full-time African-American male workers are going down. Annual salaries now average at $31,018. On the other hand, annual salaries for white-male workers are going up. Their annual income now averages $60,075.
Whites in middle- and upper-income households have experienced an eight percent increase in income while African-American households have suffered a four percent decline. Only five percent of black households reported an income of more than $102,000, compared to 29 percent of white households in the same income bracket. While the percentage of minority-owned businesses grew, these firms continue to receive a below average 2 percent of all receipts.
Rents in New Orleans have risen. According to GNOCDC, 54 percent of renters in New Orleans are now paying unaffordable rental rates, up from 43 percent before Katrina. Homelessness is down to 2,400 people using shelters per night since it soared after Katrina to nearly 11,000. But the nightly numbers are still higher than they were before Katrina struck. The last of the five big traditional public housing complexes was ordered demolished in May. About a third of the 5,000-plus displaced residents have found other public housing, according to National Public Radio. Public-transportation ridership is still down from pre-Katrina levels. Pior to the storm, about 13 percent of workers used public transportation. Now 7.8 percent ride trolleys and buses to work. Public education has been completely changed since Katrina with almost 80 percent of students attending charters, far and away the highest percentage in the country, reports the Tulane Cowen Institute. The poverty rate in New Orleans is 29 percent, nearly double the National rate of 16 percent. However, GONCDC reports the majority of the poor people in the metro area now live in the suburban parishes outside New Orleans. One third of households in New Orleans earn less than $20,000 annually. This includes 44 percent of African-American households compared to 18 percent of white households.
Life expectancy varies as much as 25 years inside of New Orleans, according to analysis by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Life expectancy in zip code 70124, Lakeview and Lakeshore, which is 93 percent white, is at a high of 80 years. Life expectancy in 70112 — Tulane, Gravier, Iberville, Treme, which is 87 percent black — is at 54.5 years and has six times the poverty of 70124. Social and economic factors directly impact health. Overall, life expectancy in New Orleans area parishes is one to six years lower than the rest of the United States. Jail incarceration rates in New Orleans are four times higher than the national average at 912 per 100,000, reports the GNOCDC. The national rate is 236 per 100,000. This rate has fluctuated up and down since Katrina and is now just about where it was when Katrina hit. About 84 percent of those incarcerated in New Orleans are African-Americans. The average length of time spent waiting for trial is 69 days for African-Americans and 38 days for whites. Crime in New Orleans and in the metro area surrounding the city is down from pre-Katrina levels but still remains significantly higher than national rates.
In a bewildering development, a recent poll of Republicans in Louisiana revealed that 28 percent thought President George W. Bush was more responsible for the poor response to Hurricane Katrina and 29 percent thought President Barack Obama was more responsible, although President Obama did not take office until more than three years after Katrina!