scribed as “tough questions”—often concerning detailed, fine-grained segments of the population—with “little good data” then available for guidance:

  • From a national charitable organization, a request for information on the number of low-income seniors in areas across Louisiana, to steer their aid;
  • From a state emergency preparedness agency, a request for solid counts of non-English-speaking persons in small areas of southeast Louisiana, in order to best print and circulate evacuation guides and other materials in Spanish, Vietnamese, and French;
  • From the local public defenders’ office, a request for a comprehensive demographic profile of the post-Katrina city—without which they would have no basis for determining whether court juries are actually representative of the population;
  • From a state health agency, a request for detailed demographic statistics by small area, in order to make sure that state HIV/AIDS outreach efforts were being appropriately planned during the area’s economic recovery; and
  • From a large real estate group, an updated demographic profile for a specific high-ground New Orleans neighborhood, to make the case to a major potential client that the specific neighborhood was booming.

Faced with these questions, Plyer said that GNOCDC had to make use of the best data then available—flagging census blocks by their extent of flood damage (as determined by the U.S. Geological Survey and others) and aggregating small-area population statistics from the 2000 census (and its long-form sample) for flooded and nonflooded areas. This provided some useful insight on the number of people who could return to relatively undamaged (and high ground) parts of New Orleans when the city reopened. But the data—already 5 years old—were static, and so were not ideal for chronicling the city’s recovery. As the city began to repopulate, it remained an open question of how the demographics of the city were changing, and which pre-Katrina residents were returning and which were not. Accordingly, GNOCDC eagerly welcomed the ACS as it entered full-scale collection—and was greatly relieved that the region would not have to wait until the 2010 census for a good reading on New Orleans demographics.

As 2006 and 2007 ACS data became available, GNOCDC began to generate series of analyses that it has since updated on an annual basis. For example, the ACS data showed that the populace of Orleans Parish had changed strikingly along some key variables: significantly fewer people who completed a high school degree and fewer households lacking access to a vehicle, a drop in the percentage of population living in poverty, and an uptick in the percentage of foreign-born population. Plyer conceded that their analyses lack a clear base for pre- and post-Katrina comparison because the ACS data for 2004 were still being



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement