In addition to population decline, Orleans parish had nation’s lowest census participation rate

NEW ORLEANS – On Friday, Louisiana’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce welcomed Gregory Rigamer of GCR & Associates to present on the latest census results. Rigamer’s assessment spanned many topics but was tailored to the audience and notably clarified the declining fortunes of New Orleans, amid unique and rapidly changing demographics.

In the first quarterly luncheon of 2011, Executive Director Darlene Kattan also introduced incoming board members and Rodrick Miller of the New Orleans Business Alliance to the approximately 80 attendees. Miller is NOBA’s new chief executive, and Kattan expressed great pleasure and enthusiasm at his arrival and the opportunity to work with NOBA.

Rigamer sees reason for optimism in Louisiana and New Orleans, but he highlighted stagnant population growth – a trend that predates hurricane Katrina – as an indicator worthy of concern. With the state’s 1.4 percent growth over the last decade, only Michigan fared worse with a 0.6 percent decline. The national average was 9.9 percent growth, and Louisiana fell even further behind the Southern states average of 14.8 percent.

In fact, if you take out the influx of individuals who identify as Hispanic, the state’s population would have declined.

Population Growth: Louisiana trails the South and the Nation*

Of Louisiana’s regions to experience population decline, New Orleans’ was most severe, although Rigamer said that is only one of many problems the city’s residents face. As one example, he cited a 25 percent vacancy rate in the housing market – and that would be even higher if one were to account for blighted buildings.

New Orleans Parishes’ Population Decline in Perspective*

Perhaps a reflection of its transient and renter community, Orleans Parish also had the nation’s lowest census participation rate. Forty-five percent of households mailed back the forms they received, compared with the national average of 74 percent. This finding places the accuracy of the census count in great doubt, but that doesn’t change the political outcome.

“The take away message is that Katrina has caused a shift in Louisiana’s population that will dilute the voting strength of the New Orleans area legislative delegation,” said Rigamer. “Additionally, the Hispanic population is on the rise throughout Louisiana but particularly in the greater New Orleans area.”

* Source: ACR & Associates, Inc.

Fergus Hodgson is the capitol bureau reporter with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy and editor of The Pelican Post. He can be contacted at, and one can follow him on twitter.