Census numbers show slight growth in New Orleans population

Census results for New Orleans shows small growth
Updated: Mar. 23, 2017 at 5:48 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - New census estimates deliver mixed news about the population of the City of New Orleans.

"The population of Orleans and the metro continue to grow which is good. There are many cities around the country that are shrinking," said Data Center Executive Director and chief demographer Allison Plyer.

New population estimates show Orleans Parish had 391,495 residents as of July 2016, compared to 389,738 the year before.

"Looking at the specific components of growth New Orleans has had more births than deaths," said Plyer.

Still, that is only part of the city's population trends' picture.

"Substantial international in-migration, but more domestic out-migration, so more people are leaving the city than coming to the city when we just look at U.S. residents," said Plyer.

She discussed some of the likely factors for the out-migration.

"There's probably a number of larger factors in the economy, you know, we have fewer tax credits for movies, so less movie production going on, there's been a downturn in oil and gas, there's a little bit less Katrina rebuilding activity going on, and then people within the metro will decide whether or not they want to live in this city based on their jobs and other factors," Plyer said.

And while there are certainly many bright spots in terms of the local economy, low wages could also be a factor.

"Certainly tourism is still a very large sector, so while we're growing higher paying jobs in digital media, in water management and bio-tech, tourism is still an industry that has a disproportionate number of low-wage jobs that's going to make it hard for people to live in this city," Plyer said.

"I would say that given that we live in a city where the majority of people are renters and we have large numbers of people living here that are not only rent-burdened but severely rent-burdened and paying more than half of their monthly income toward housing costs, then a lack of affordable housing does play a role in people's decision to leave the city," said Cashauna Hill, executive director of the GNO Fair Housing Action Center.

She said wages are not keeping pace with the increasing cost of rent in New Orleans.

"Then it's not a leap to say that affordable housing is at the root of some decisions of people to leave," Hill said.

She said it is encouraging that gaining more affordable housing is a high on the community's radar.

"The Smart Housing Mix [proposal], for example, is something that would set aside a certain number of affordable units, not just for 10 years, for 15 years, but for 50 years, for 99 years, so that people who are working in these low-wage industries will be able to afford to live in New Orleans," she said.

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