Black Economic Growth Is Hard in the Big Easy
By Neela Banerjee of The Root
To hear locals tell it, black wealth in New Orleans is an oxymoron. Before Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005 and the levees broke, it was one of the poorest cities in the United States, a grim burden borne disproportionately by blacks. Five years later, little has changed except for the dispiriting fact that the city’s small black elite and middle class, which were just starting to grow in the 1990s, were pushed back nearly to square one.
As it stands, the gap between black and white income is deep and wide. In 2008, 43 percent of black households in New Orleans made less than $22,458 a year, compared with 18 percent of white families, according to the August 2010 report, “The New Orleans Index at Five: Measuring Greater New Orleans’ Progress Toward Prosperity.” On the other end of the scale, only 15 percent of black households made more than $67,000, while 45 percent of white families did.
The numbers highlight the stubbornness of New Orleans’ economic realities for blacks. Despite the vast contributions by African Americans to the city’s unique music, food, celebrations and culture, they have historically been shut out of economic opportunity and upward mobility.