Marlyville / Fontainebleau / Broadmoor Preservation
post-Katrina and beyond...









press clipping

Study profiles victims of Katrina
Those who suffered most are black, poor
Thursday, January 26, 2006
By Gwen Filosa
Staff writer

African-Americans and the poor living along the Gulf Coast were disproportionately victimized by Hurricane Katrina, according to a study by Brown University due for release today.

While the 16-page report surveys the entire region, most of it is devoted to New Orleans, culminating in the prediction that the city is at risk of losing more than 80 percent of its black population, and 50 percent of its white residents, if people cannot return to their flood-damaged neighborhoods.

In the city, 75 percent of residents of damaged areas were black, while in undamaged areas the majority of residents were white, the study found. Also in damaged areas, 53 percent of residents were renters, more than 10 percent were unemployed, and 29 percent were poor.

"The continuing question about the hurricane is this: Whose city will be rebuilt?" Logan said.

About 650,000 people lived in areas that sustained moderate to catastrophic damage from the hurricane season -- more than a third of the region's population -- and the study found dramatic social disparities between that unfortunate lot and those who were spared from harm.

More than 20 percent of the population in damaged areas lived below the poverty line, compared to 15 percent in undamaged areas.

"The suffering from the storm certainly cut across racial and class lines," said Brown University sociologist John Logan. "But the odds of living in a damaged area were clearly much greater for blacks, residents who rented their homes and poor people. In these respects, the most socially vulnerable residents also turned out to be most exposed to Katrina."

Black people were less likely to be homeowners than white people and had average incomes that were 60 percent lower than white people, making it more difficult for them to return to their pre-Katrina lives in New Orleans without assistance, Logan said.

Logan's report is the first of its kind on the disaster zone created along the Gulf Coast by last hurricane season. It also includes an extensive analysis on social differences among each of New Orleans' 13 planning districts and 72 neighborhoods.

"There is a general tendency for blacks and poor residents to have greater odds of being in harm's way, because they lived in less desirable, low-lying areas," Logan said.

One such neighborhood is the Lower 9th Ward, which pre-Katrina had 19,000 residents, the report said, and was riddled with crime, poverty and blighted homes. The Lower 9 was 96 percent black, 46 percent were renters, 34 percent were poor and 13 percent were unemployed.

Residents of the Lower 9 note that the neighborhood had a homeowner rate of nearly 60 percent, higher than the citywide figure. But in the same neighborhood, 14 percent of housing units were vacant, a rate 1.4 percent higher than citywide.

Comparatively, the report found that in Lakeview, an area also ravaged by flooding that 26,000 called home, about 2 percent were black, 34 percent were renters, 6 percent were poor and less than 3 percent were unemployed.

The findings were based on a combination of U.S. Census data and FEMA maps of flooding and wind damage. In New Orleans, some affluent white neighborhoods were hard-hit, while poor minority enclaves were spared, the study notes. But Logan found that black residents were more likely to be kept out of the city's recovery stage.

"Policy choices affecting who can return, to which neighborhoods, and with what forms of public and private assistance, will greatly affect the future character of the city," Logan said.

Those images of abject poverty that arose immediately after the hurricane struck, of predominantly black families stranded outside the Convention Center and the Superdome, were accurate predictions of who lost the most in the deadly storm, Logan said.

A PDF file of the full report is available at

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Gwen Filosa can be reached at or (504) 826-3304