Recovery Tracker: New Orleans Population may be 300,000

July 27, 2007

New Orleans’ population, which fell more than half after Hurricane Katrina, may be back to two-thirds of its pre-storm level, with about 300,000 residents, a group tracking recovery trends says.

The U.S. Postal Service says it is now delivering mail to about two-thirds as many households as in July 2005 – up from 49.5 percent last August, according to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center.

The Postal Service says it is delivering mail to about 66 percent as many households as in July 2005, when the total was 198,232 households. At that time, the Census Bureau population was at just under 455,000.

Katrina hit that Aug. 29; six months later, the city’s population was estimated at 189,000.

The data center said the number of Jefferson Parish households receiving mail in June amounted to 98.2 percent of the parish’s pre-Katrina figure. The June figure for St. Tammany Parish was 103.2 percent, but in St. Bernard it was only 35.9 percent.

For the four-parish area, the number of households receiving mail in June was 82.9 percent of the pre-Katrina total, up from a low of 76.1 percent in August 2006, the Community Data Center said.

The center said maps showing the percentages of households getting mail across New Orleans show “notable resurgence” in many parts of heavily flooded neighborhoods.

Although the lowest monthly mail-delivery figure reported for Orleans Parish since Katrina was 49.5 percent in August, that does not mean the city never dipped below half its pre-storm population.

The Postal Service was unable to compile meaningful numbers for several months after the storm, said Allison Plyer, deputy director of the data center. Eventually, she said, the service was able to restore reliable data-gathering, and household counts have grown steadily since August.

The postal-deliveries figure of 49.5 percent in August, Plyer noted, was very close to the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimate, released in March, that New Orleans’ population on July 1, 2006, was 49.4 percent of the total one year earlier, or about 224,700.

CGR’s estimate for June was 17.5 percent higher than for July 2006 and nearly 58 percent of its pre-Katrina total.

GCR maintains a statistical index for each of New Orleans’ 10,000 city blocks, monitoring activities such as utility use and new building permits. By tracking the activity on each block, the firm is able to document resettlement patterns and population changes, Chief Executive Officer Greg Rigamer said.

The postal-deliveries figure for May in Orleans Parish was 65.2 percent of the pre-Katrina number, the Community Data Center said, well above the GCR population estimate for that month of 58 percent.

The discrepancy points up the difficulty of estimating the city’s population as it recovers. If 50,000 families with two or three children were replaced by 50,000 single construction workers, for example, an estimate using mail delivery figures would be high.

Both sets of figures show that the number of people in the city continues to grow from month to month, although the GCR figures indicate a slower rate.

The Community Data Center, a project of Greater New Orleans Nonprofit Knowledge Works, issues the monthly Katrina Index, a compilation of data on population, housing, the economy and other recovery indicators, in conjunction with the Brookings Institution in Washington. The index is available at

Information from: The Times-Picayune,

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