Katrina Pain Index 2016: Race and class gap widening

by Bill Quigley

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.

New-Orleans-protest-Justice-for-Katrina-Survivors-by-Lee-Celano-Reuters-300x189, Katrina Pain Index 2016: Race and class gap widening, News & Views
New Orleans’ Black population is well aware and continually resisting the discrimination outlined here by their favorite lawyer, Bill Quigley, who counseled them through the storm and never stopped. Listen to WBOK, Black talk radio, to hear their astute analysis and opinions and what they’re doing about it. – Photo: Lee Celano, Reuters

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, it is clear that 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 live in poverty, about double the national rate. The current rate of 44 percent is up three 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 Hurricane 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. Thirty-six 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.

Martin-Luther-King-Charter-School-principal-Doris-Hicks-rallies-students-teachers-parents-govt-offls-to-open-school-090606-by-Eliot-Kamenitz-NOLA-300x212, Katrina Pain Index 2016: Race and class gap widening, News & Views
On Sept. 6, 2006, a year after Katrina, Martin Luther King Charter School principal Doris Hicks rallies students, teachers, parents and government officials to demand the former Colton Academy be opened so their school year can begin. – Photo: Eliot Kamenitz, NOLA

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, fewer 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 the 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.

Public-housing-protest-New-Orleans-City-Hall-2007-by-Gpax-300x225, Katrina Pain Index 2016: Race and class gap widening, News & Views
The years-long battle over the thousands of homes in New Orleans public housing that had survived Katrina unscathed was fierce and passionate, but they were ultimately demolished – an act of blatant racism to drive Blacks from the city. This is a 2007 protest at City Hall. – Photo: Gpax

95,057 The population of the City of New Orleans is 95,057 fewer people 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, the 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 entire 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 healthcare costs because of high rates of premature death, 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.

Seventy-six billion dollars came to Louisiana because of Katrina. This information makes it clear who did NOT get the money.

Special thanks to The Data Center, a terrific source of information showing how the community is doing.

Bill Quigley is a law professor and director of the Law Clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University New Orleans. He has served as legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and has been an active public interest lawyer since 1977. He can be reached at Quigley@loyno.edu. This story first appeared on the Huffington Post.