New Orleans has returned to the big leagues.
For the first time since the city flooded after Hurricane Katrina and most of its roughly 450,000 residents were scattered to the four winds, New Orleans is again among America’s 50 biggest cities, according to new estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The agency reckons that New Orleans’ population on July 1, 2014, was 384,320, putting the Crescent City at No. 50 on the list — one notch behind Wichita, Kansas, and one ahead of Arlington, Texas.
Last year, the city had been ranked 51st, after having fallen as low as No. 82 after the storm, according to Census Bureau estimates. In 2000, the last decennial census before Katrina, New Orleans ranked No. 31 among American cities.
The 2014 estimate puts the city’s population at about 84 percent of its pre-Katrina level; the regional population is at 94 percent of its pre-storm level.
The latest estimate isn’t new: The Census Bureau released county-by-county population estimates in March, and since Orleans Parish and New Orleans are equivalent, those estimates served as an estimate of the city’s population, as well.
But the figures released Thursday put New Orleans in the context of cities all over the country.
They show that 10 U.S. cities have at least 1 million residents. New York leads the pack with nearly 8.5 million people; San Jose, California, is at No. 10 with 1,015,785 people. Texas and California each have three cities with at least a million people.
New Orleans’ population peaked in 1960, when the city was home to nearly 630,000 people. When Katrina struck, the population had been declining steadily for decades.
Since the storm, New Orleans has clawed its way back, although the growth rate has slowed with each passing year. The city grew by about 1.4 percent between 2013 and 2014, according to the census estimates.
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