Naturally enough, the rate of rebound for New Orleans’ population is slower than it was in the earlier years after the devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the flooding of the greater part of the city. Yet if it is slower, it’s still growing.
We welcome this news and look forward to much more growth in the future.
The nonprofit Data Center — formerly the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center — reported on the updated demographic information about the city’s growth nine years after the horrific storms of 2005.
The number of households receiving mail in the city grew by 1.2 percent between June 2013 and June 2014, the data center’s figures show. That compares with a growth rate of 1.6 percent in the previous year, 2.5 percent in the year before that and 5.2 percent in the year before that.
An annual growth rate of 1.2 percent, though down sharply from recent years, still keeps New Orleans among America’s fastest-growing cities, according to Allison Plyer, the center’s executive director.
“The growth we had in the years after Katrina was astronomical because we were starting with such a small base,” Plyer said. “But our growth now is actually really strong relative to other cities.”
We think it’s better news that the growth is attributable to both returning residents and newcomers.
In Plyer’s view, at least some of the influx is the result of a relatively strong economy that is less dependent on post-Katrina rebuilding than it was in the immediate post-storm years, which could suggest the growth won’t stop anytime soon.
Demographer Greg Rigamer agreed with that assessment, saying, “We clearly have some new people coming here, as well as many people coming back. It really is a combination of the two.”
As Rigamer noted, there is a trend toward urban living that has nationally drawn more people into cities where commutes are shorter and walkable neighborhoods are easier to find. That is perhaps in part why, post-Katrina, the centrally located and less-damaged neighborhoods were the first to rebound; now, the Data Center report said, growth is faster in suburban sections of town harder hit by floodwaters.
By the group’s count, there are now nearly 180,000 households receiving mail in New Orleans — 88 percent of the pre-Katrina total. That figure squares pretty closely with the most recent figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, which estimated the city’s population in July 2013 at 378,715. That’s 83 percent of the pre-Katrina estimate of 454,865.
For the city, that’s good news, but it’s also good for the metropolitan area and the state. New Orleans can and should be a more dynamic economic and social driver for Louisiana; for decades before Katrina, the city’s future was a question mark and not an exclamation point.
We like the positive trends on city growth, and may they roll on like the Mississippi toward a broader base for the city’s future.