Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Concentrated poverty is a good thing, especially if the enclave is black.

Don’t agree? Take it up with Blaine Harden of the Washington Post (WaPo).

Unbelievably, The Economics of Return passed editorial muster.

Poverty, why hath thou forsaken me?
When Katrina blew in and levees gave way, the high water, in many neighborhoods, was colorblind and classless [Ed. – as opposed to typical water, which is bigoted and snobby]. It clobbered Lakeview, a leafy and serene white area where longtime residents cannot remember serious flooding, as cruelly as the Lower Ninth Ward, a black neighborhood with a long, dismal history of high water.

But in New Orleans, where affluent whites live high and working-class blacks live low, the privileges of neighborhood quickly asserted themselves. For many, race and class [Ed. – a blind, irresponsible reliance on a notoriously corrupt and incompetent local government played no part] predicted patterns of escape, dictating whether flight would be a nervous drive out of town or a caged week of torment and humiliation

These days, as planners and politicians look ahead, many realize that the future of this city, which before the storm was more than two-thirds black and nearly one-third poor, swings on two simple questions:

Are residents coming home? If so, which ones? [Ed. – see math exercise below]

It now appears that long-standing neighborhood differences in income and opportunity -- along with resentment over the ghastly exodus -- are shaping the stalled repopulation of this mostly empty city….
OMG, the dreaded white people are coming!
Still, anxiety is building that New Orleans will not bounce back as Chicago did after the fire or San Francisco after the quake. There is concern that it will be much smaller, whiter, richer and more homogeneous: an anodyne, theme-park version of the Big Easy dominated by highbrow restaurants and lowbrow bars of the unflooded [sic] French Quarter.

Amazingly, someone manages to sneak in the real question. The one that all the evacuees and the American taxpayers, after having taken a long deep breath, must answer sensibly.
Should they bring themselves and their children back to a below-sea-level city that, for all its sweet music and gastronomical allure, is largely a ruin, as well as a sitting duck for the next big storm?

An aside
[B]efore the storm [New Orleans] was more than two-thirds black and nearly one-third poor.

From the US Census Bureau:
  • Population of NOLA – 445,000
  • Black – 68%
  • Poor (in poverty) – 27%

Now assume that, prior to the disaster, every poor person in NOLA was black (as the WaPo implies) and that every non-poor evacuee will eventually return.

Then the new NOLA would look like this:
  • Population of NOLA – 324,850
  • Black- 56%
  • Poor – 0%

What a horrible (“much smaller, whiter, richer”) thought.


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