Economic Inequality

Ten years of uneven recovery have exacerbated the economic inequalities that predated Hurricane Katrina. Without a doubt, the economic progress of the last ten years has not been felt equally and the data shows that poor families, particularly those of color, continue to lag behind their richer, white counterparts.

The massive displacement of New Orleanians had a unique impact on African American residents – displacing Black business professionals and the jobs that they once held. New jobs have not served the needs of the long-standing New Orleans community, and the 52% unemployment rate for African American men evidence this failure. Today the median income for black families in New Orleans is much lower than that for white families, a gap that has widened since Katrina. According to the Urban League, the median income gap between Black and white households in New Orleans has widened by 18 percent from 2005 to 2013. The median white household income in New Orleans increased from $49,262 to $60,553 while the median household income for African Americans only increased from $23,394 to $25,102. The focus on establishing a ‘startup culture’ in the city to drive economic development has left hundreds of families out of the stream of progress.

While the city has touted progress around job growth, the majority of these positions are low-wage jobs in the service industry, with only 33 percent qualifying as “good jobs,” defined as positions with full-time hours, benefits, an opportunity for upward mobility, and not requiring post-secondary education. Indeed, 68 percent of the region’s “good jobs” are not held by people of color. In contrast, African American residents account for half of all working-age adults in struggling families but only a quarter of workers holding good jobs.

In addition, there are more Black children living in poverty in New Orleans than before Katrina, increasing from 44 percent in 2005 to 50.5 percent in 2013 – a figure that is linked to the availability of jobs that provide a living wage. It is not coincidence that as the number of poor families and children have grown, so has the number of low-paying jobs. A recent study indicated that seven out of 10 jobs added in the metro New Orleans area between 2010 and 2014 paid below the average local wage.

Key Recovery Data

$25,102 The median income for Black families in New Orleans, compared to $60,553 for White families
7% The rate at which the median income for Black families has grown in the past ten years – compared to a 22% growth rate for White families
50.5% The rate of Black children in New Orleans who live in poverty – higher than before Katrina
$0.49 The number of cents that Black women make for every dollar that White men make in Louisiana
52% Black men in New Orleans considered to be unemployed

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