New Orleans Ranked First in Decade-Long Population Loss Due to Natural Disasters, Not Economic Decline

Guest post by Seyi Fayanju, Environmental Defense Fund

Seyi works on the coastal Louisiana restoration project at Environmental Defense Fund.  He is a contributor to EDF’s Restoration and Resilience blog, in which he writes about the links between hazard mitigation, environmental rehabilitation, and economic recovery in the Mississippi River Delta.

Between 2000 and 2009, New Orleans lost more than a quarter of its residents, outpacing Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and other struggling “Rust Belt” cities in its pace of population loss.  This decline was largely attributable to the twin disasters of 2005: Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, and the catastrophic levee failures that occurred soon after.  While the storm forced the temporary evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people, it was the floods afterwards that kept many New Orleanians from returning to their homes.  The Big Easy has rebounded in a big way since 2005, but the population of Louisiana’s largest city remains well-below its pre-Katrina figure.

New Orleans, Louisiana (credit: NASA)

What will be needed to help New Orleans on the path to demographic recovery?  The answer could lie in wetland rehabilitation and hazard mitigation.  Along with stronger levee protection, New Orleans would benefit from increased investment in complementary forms of flood and storm protection.  The restoration of area wetlands and the elevation of homes and commercial structures would provide additional protection for the residents of New Orleans, and create jobs for workers throughout the Mississippi River Delta.  Implementation of these recommendations could help New Orleans and other communities in coastal Louisiana to flourish in the years to come.

You can read Seyi’s in-depth analysis of New Orleans’ population loss on EDF’s Restoration and Resilience blog.