Don't Believe the Headlines
New Orleans' population is not shrinking.
Mark Twain is said to have quipped, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
This quote comes to mind every time I read a headline declaring that New Orleans is losing population and the city is on the decline.
Let’s set the record straight. New Orleans is not losing population.
Between 2015 and 2016, 261 more people moved to New Orleans than moved away. Adding births and subtracting deaths, New Orleans’ total population grew by 1,757, according to the most recent Census estimates.
Where are reporters getting the idea that more people are leaving than coming? They are looking only at the domestic migration estimate, and they are failing to look at the international migration estimate to New Orleans. While the Census Bureau calculated the domestic migration to New Orleans to be negative 759 between 2015 and 2016, they calculated the international migration to be positive 1,020.
Who is included in this estimate of international migration? It might include a doctor returning from deployment overseas to work at the new VA Hospital, a recent graduate from India moving to New Orleans on a work visa to fill a tech job, or someone returning from two years serving in the Peace Corps in Botswana.
A growing population often indicates expanding economic opportunities. The arrival of individuals from overseas is just as important an indicator of robustness as the arrival of individuals from other parts of the U.S.
In total, New Orleans’ population grew about 0.5 percent from 389,738 in July 1, 2015, to 391,495 in July 1, 2016, according to these Census estimates. For a more recent indicator of population growth, The Data Center tracks monthly counts of households actively receiving mail from the U.S. Postal Service. Looking at change from June 2016 to June 2017, postal data indicates that the New Orleans population grew an additional one percent over the last year.
Moreover, the USPS data show that 85 percent of the city’s neighborhoods experienced an increase in active residences from 2016 to 2017. The largest gain was in the Central Business District, which experienced an increase of 168 occupied residences. Second was the Holy Cross neighborhood, which gained an impressive 107 active addresses. Next on the list was Little Woods, which gained 95 residences, and Lakeview, which gained 85. Then Iberville, which is being redeveloped, gained 81 occupied residences.
Examining growth rates, the Florida and Iberville Developments have had the highest percent increase in active residences since 2016, followed by Holy Cross. These neighborhoods all grew by more than 6 percent. Lake Catherine, Central Business District, St. Anthony, and Filmore all grew between 3.1 and 6 percent as depicted on the map.
Only two neighborhoods lost a notable number of active residences over the last year. The Dillard neighborhood lost 1.9 percent of occupied households, and the Whitney neighborhood lost 3.2 percent.
All told, USPS data suggest that New Orleans’ population continues to grow in 2017. Data point to those neighborhoods that are experiencing the fastest growth. You can see more maps and download the annual data for all 72 New Orleans neighborhoods on our website, datacenterresearch.org.
Allison Plyer is chief demographer of The Data Center in New Orleans. Dr. Plyer is author of The New Orleans Index series, developed in collaboration with the Brookings Institution to track the region’s progress toward prosperity, and she leads The Data Center’s research on the development of the water management cluster in Southeast Louisiana as published in The Coastal Index series.