New Orleans is the largest city and metro area of Louisiana, and its name comes from Orléans, a city on the Loire River in France. Known for its French Creole architecture and multilingual and cultural heritage, New Orleans is often called the most unique city in the United States.
The New Orleans metropolitan area has a population of 1.167 million, which makes it the 46th largest in the country, and the New Orleans-Metairie-Bogalusa Combined Statistical Area has a population of 1.2 million.
Impact of Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina had a significant impact on New Orleans, and it was called the "worst engineering disaster in the world since Chernobyl" by Dr. Raymond B. Seed of the University California Berkeley after the Federal levee system failed. The hurricane approached the city in August 2005 and, while most residents were evacuated, the federal flood protection system failed, and 80% of New Orleans was flooded.
Tens of thousands of residents who were left in the city were rescued, but many stayed in shelters -- including the Louisiana Superdome -- for days. Officially, 1,500 people died in Louisiana, but there were many more never accounted for.
Tens of thousands of people left New Orleans and never returned, and in 2006, the Census Bureau estimated the population was just 223,000. A year later, 32,000 people returned, which brought the city's population to only 56% of pre-Katrina levels.
In 2013, the US Census Bureau estimated the population of New Orleans at 369,000, which is 76% of its 2000 population, while the metro area has 92% of its 2000 population. Another survey in June 2013 found that more than half of the 72 neighborhoods of New Orleans had recovered 90% of their pre-Katrina population.
While African Americans still represent a majority in the city, their numbers dropped significantly after the hurricane.
New Orleans Diversity and Religion
In 2006, it was estimated that there are about 10,000 to 14,000 illegal immigrants in New Orleans, mostly from Mexico. Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, said there might be about 120,000 Hispanic workers in the city.
New Orleans has become more diverse over the last decade, and its Latino population in the metropolitan area has jumped 69% from 2000 to 2012, which is much higher than the national 50% growth.
The French and Spanish colonial history of New Orleans gives its population a strong Catholic traditional, and Catholicism is still the predominant religion. 35.9% of its population is Roman Catholic. There is also a strong presence of Louisiana Voodoo, which is a syncretism with African and Afro-Caribbean Roman Catholic beliefs. While this Voodoo image is promoted a great deal by the tourism industry, there are very few true adherents in New Orleans.
New Orleans Population Growth
In 2012, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 largest cities with the fastest growing populations in the US based on Census Bureau data. New Orleans ranked #1, with 4.9% growth from 2010 to 2011. This is more than six times the national average of just 0.73%, although New Orleans remains at 80% pre-Katrina levels.
The good news is that New Orleans is on the rise again, eight years after Hurricane Katrina. In recent years, the population has started to grow, and the city recovered all the jobs it lost as of 2012 with new growth in knowledge-based industries. This is good news for The Big Easy, and it's a trend that is expected to continue.
There's no doubt that Hurricane Katrina was a terrible disaster and tragedy, but it gave New Orleans the money and opportunity to rebuild and reinvent itself. The city was saved by the once-imminent fate of Detroit and its real estate market has seen a rebirth.
If current trends hold, New Orleans should have no trouble making its way back to pre-Katrina levels and possibly beyond before the next census in 2020.