How Has New Orleans Changed Since Katrina?

The Data Center, a research organization focused on Southeast Louisiana, analyzes New Orleans' recovery
The Data Center, a research organization focused on Southeast Louisiana, analyzes New Orleans' recovery

10 Years After Hurricane Katrina: How Resilient Is New Orleans?

How Has New Orleans Changed Since Katrina?

With the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina arriving this week, The Data Center, a research organization focused on helping to build prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable communities released an analysis of the New Orleans recovery since August 2005. Founded in 1997, The Data Center is an independent research organization focused on providing data about Southeast Louisina. An excerpt of the analysis is featured below.

The analysis looked at Ecnonomic Growth; Inclusive Growth; Quality of Life; and Sustainability as primary indicators of the city’s capacity for resilience. The Data Center’s findings on Economic Growth and Sustainability are below.

When Hurricane Katrina struck and the levees protecting metro New Orleans failed, the western world witnessed an unprecedented catastrophe. More than 1,000 people died, more than a million were displaced, and total damage to the region was estimated at $151 billion. But since August 2005, the world has experienced multiple large-scale disasters including the 2010 earthquakes that devastated Haiti, the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami that killed over 15,000 people, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which caused over 100 deaths and $67 billion in damage along the East Coast.

Southeast Louisiana alone has experienced multiple shocks since 2005. Hurricane Katrina was followed quickly by Hurricane Rita. In subsequent years, Hurricanes Ike, Gustav, and Isaac all caused extensive flooding and wind damage across the region. And in 2010, the Deepwater Horizon explosion gushed millions of barrels of oil into the gulf, fouling miles of Louisiana’s delicate coastal wetlands—New Orleans’ first line of defense against storm surge.

New Orleans Skyline
Credit: The Data Center

Given the multiple shocks this region has suffered since 2005, the tenth anniversary of Katrina is an appropriate time to assess how the region has recovered from Katrina, and whether the city and metro area are fortifying the capacities necessary to be resilient in the face of any shock. Indeed since 2005, the prevalence of large scale disasters worldwide has drawn the attention of decision makers at every level. The lessons learned from New Orleans’ recovery experience can inform how the world not only responds to future disasters, but also how it builds the resiliency capacities needed to withstand any shock. Our indicators suggest that while the New Orleans economy is rebounding, and in some ways better than before, several social and environmental trends may test New Orleans’ resilience capacity in the future.

Economic Growth
The Metro New Orleans Economy is taking first steps towards a new trajectory—with sustained job growth, an increasingly diverse set of industry clusters, and high rates of entrepreneurship.

From 2008 to 2010, metro New Orleans lost only 1% of jobs compared to 5%  lost nationwide. By 2014, metro New Orleans had recouped these losses and reached 5 percent above its 2008 level, while the nation reached only 1% above its 2008 level.

Jobs in knowledge-based clusters have grown substantially since 2010 including in construction products & services (an essential part of the water management cluster), video production, and electric power generation, which have grown 14%, 90%, and 22% respectively.

Job centers have shifted across the region. Parishes upriver and on the north shore are now home to 24% of all the metro’s jobs.

By 2014, passenger enplanements in Louis Armstrong International airport surpassed 2008 levels by 22%—while national air traffic had recovered to only 5% above pre-recession numbers. In fact, by 2014, New Orleans passenger enplanements had surpassed their 2004 pre-Katrina high mark—indicating that the New Orleans airport is providing expanded connectivity for Southeast Louisiana visitors, residents, and businesses.

The metro New Orleans entrepreneurship rate—at 471 startups per 100,000 adults during the three year period from 2011-13—is 64% higher than the national average, and 40% higher than other fast-growing Southern metros.

Venture capital funding, which is critical to innovation and economic cluster development, has doubled in metro New Orleans from $16 per capita in 2010 to $32 per capita in 2014. But this is only a fraction of the venture capital going to startups in competitive metro Austin, where funding has consistently been over $100 per capita since 2006.

Metro New Orleans lags the nation in producing and attracting workers with a bachelor’s degree. By 2013, only 27% of adults in the metro had at least a four year degree compared to 30% nationwide, and the gap between metro New Orleans and the nation has been widening since 1990.

Expanding bike lanes point to greater appreciation for sustainability. But disappearing wetlands and encroaching salinity put a spotlight on the importance of coastal restoration and urban water management.

Bike lanes have increased more than eightfold in New Orleans from 11 miles in 2004 to 92 miles in 2014.

The share of commuters using public transit in New Orleans is only 7% in 2013, down from 13% in 2000, and in the rest of the metro, the share has remained flat at barely 1% since 2000.

Not only has the metro lost 29% of the coastal wetlands that protect it from storm surge since 1932, but measurements within the levee walls since 1951 demonstrate that saltwater is encroaching, with eight of nine groundwater sample sites registering increasing salinity.

The full analysis from The Data Center can be found here.

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