Post-Katrina African-Americans in New Orleans: income loss, education gain
Hurricane Katrina New Orleans’ African-American community has made educational gains since the storm, but has not increased its median income as much as white households, according to a presentation Friday (July 3) by the Urban League of Greater New Orleans and the National Urban League.The post-
The organizations took advantage of a 2015 Essence Festival in full swing to answer participants’ questions about the city’s shifting post-K demographics and promote its “RISE: Katrina 10” conference in late August.
“It is really important for us to have this conversation at Essence because we believe New Orleans as a majority African-American city is a microcosm of issues that others face,” Urban League of Greater New Orleans President and CEO Erika McConduit-Diggs said.
African-Americans still represent the majority of the city’s post-K population — about 59 percent. But only 48 percent of African-American men are employed.
“The challenge of black male employment is not a challenge unique to New Orleans. It is a challenge across the nation,” said former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, CEO of the National Urban League.
The median income gap between black and white households in New Orleans has widened by 18 percent from 2005 to 2013, according to the Urban League report. That’s because the median white household in New Orleans increased from $49,262 to $60,553, while the mean African population only rose from $23,394 to $25,102, their analysis showed.
Black children living in poverty has increased since Katrina as well, from 44 percent in 2005 to 50.5 percent in 2013, according to the Urban League.
Morial spoke of “raising the floor on the minimum wage.”
“I believe if people work, they ought to be able to afford the necessities of life,” he said. “When people earn more money, they will spend it in the economy.
“If Congress can’t (raise the minimum wage) and the state can’t do it, then the city should find a way do it.”
The Urban League presentation took place in the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, which was packed with Essence participants attending speeches, conferences and job fairs. Morial said elsewhere in the convention center, the Urban League is hosting a “career connection zone” for Essence, with recruiters collecting resumes and contact information from prospective hires.
“The challenge of black male employment is not unique to New Orleans. It is a challenge across the nation.”
Among the positive post-K trends documented by the Urban League study, the high school graduation rate among New Orleans black public school students has risen from 56 percent in the 2004-05 school year to about 73 percent in 2013-14.
New Orleans has not made a corresponding gain in the number of black men holding bachelor’s degrees or higher, however. A smaller percentage of African-American New Orleans men hold bachelors degrees now than before the storm – 13.7 percent in 2013 compared to 16.6 percent in 2005, according to the Urban League report. More African-American New Orleans women hold bachelor’s degrees or higher: 21 percent in 2013 compared to 19 percent in 2005.
“We have to encourage our young men and women to continue to seek higher ed,” Morial said. “We have to let people know, if you get a college degree, over your life you will make twice as much money as those who do not.
“Are there exceptions? Sure. Some people can make more without going to college. But, your chances of success go up with that degree.”
To learn more about the Urban League’s report on the state of New Orleans’ black community since Katrina, and to get details on the “RISE: Katrina 10” conference, visit www.risekatrina10.com.
Updated: This story was updated to clarify that the Urban League stated that only 48 percent of working age African-American men in New Orleans were employed in 2011, not 48 percent of working age African-American men and women.