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Katrina Pain Index 2011: Race, Gender, Poverty

Bill QuigleyDavida Finger

Six years ago, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast.  The impact of Katrina and government bungling continue to inflict major pain on the people left behind.  It is impossible to understand what happened and what still remains without considering race, gender, and poverty.  The following offer some hints of what remains.

$62 million.  Amount of money HUD and the State of Louisiana agreed to pay thousands of homeowners because of racial discrimination in Louisiana’s program to disburse federal rebuilding funds following Katrina and Rita.  African American homeowners were more likely than whites to have their rebuilding grants based on much lower pre-storm value of their homes rather than the higher estimated cost to rebuild them.  Source:  Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center.

343,829.   The current population of the city of New Orleans, about 110,000 less than when Katrina hit.  New Orleans is now whiter, more male and more prosperous.  Source: Greater New Orleans Community Data Center. 

154,000.   FEMA is now reviewing the grants it gave to 154,000 people following hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.  It is now demanding that some return the long ago spent funds!  FEMA admits that many of the cases under review stem from mistakes made by its own agency employees.  FEMA’s error rate following Katrina was 14.5 per cent.  Michael Kunzelman and Ryan Foley, Associated Press.

65,423.   In the New Orleans metropolitan area, there are now 65,423 fewer African American women and girls than when Katrina hit.  Overall, the number of women and girls decreased since Katrina by 108,116.  Source:  Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

47,738.   Number of vacant houses in New Orleans as of 2010.  Source: GNOCDC.

3000.  Over three thousand public housing apartments occupied before Katrina plus another thousand under renovation were bulldozed after Katrina.  Less than ten percent, 238 families, have made it back into the apartments built on the renovated sites.  Only half of the 3000+ families have even made it back to New Orleans at all.   All were African American.  Source: Katy Reckdahl, Times-Picayune.

75.  Nearly seventy five percent of the public schools in New Orleans have become charters since Katrina.  Over fifty percent of public school students in New Orleans attend public charter schools.  There are now more than thirty different charter school operators in New Orleans alone.  The reorganization of the public schools has created a separate but unequal tiered system of schools that steers a minority of students, including virtually all of the city’s white students, into a set of selective, higher-performing schools and most of the city’s students of color into a set of lower-performing schools.

Sources: Andrew Vanacore, Times-Picayune; Valerie Strauss, Washington Post; Institute on Race & Poverty of University of Minnesota Law School.

70.  Seventy percent more people are homeless in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina.  People living with HIV are estimated to be homeless at 10 times the rate of the general population, a condition amplified after Hurricane Katrina.  Source: Unity for the Homeless and Times-Picayune.

59.  Less than 60 percent of Louisiana’s public school students graduate from high school with their class.  Among public school children with disabilities in New Orleans, the high school graduation rate is 6.8%. 

Source: Education Week and Southern Poverty Law Center.

34.  Thirty four percent of the children in New Orleans live in poverty; the national average is 20%.  Source: Annie Casey Foundation Kids Count 2011.  

11.  Eleven New Orleans police officers convicted or plead guilty to federal crimes involving shootings of civilians during Hurricane Katrina aftermath.  Source: Brendan McCarthy, Times-Picayune. 

10.  At least ten people were killed by police under questionable circumstances during days after Katrina.   Source: Times-Picayune

3.  A three-fold increase in heart attacks was documented in the two years after Katrina.  Source: Tulane University Health Study. 

Number unknown. The true impact of the BP oil spill in terms of adverse health effects is vast but unknown. Delays by the federal government in studying the spill’s physical and mental health effects hinder any ability to understand these issues with accuracy. A year after the spill, more people are reporting medical and mental health problems. Source: Campell Robertson, New York Times and National Geographic.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Bill Quigley

Bill Quigley

Bill Quigley is Associate Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.  He is a Katrina survivor and has been active in human rights in Haiti for years. He volunteers with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the Bureau de Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in Port au Prince. Contact Bill at

Davida Finger

Davida Finger is a social justice lawyer and clinical professor at Loyola University New Orleans.

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