When Did the Media Stop Distringuishing Between Facts and Guesses?

The Associated Press has an article on how the demographics of New Orleans changed post-Katrina:

Those who have moved back to New Orleans in the three years since
Hurricane Katrina devastated the city are likely to have higher incomes
and more education than people who haven't come back, demographic data

New Orleans remains predominantly black, as it was before Hurricane
Katrina struck in 2005, U.S. Census Bureau figures show. But people who
have some college education, are above the poverty line, own homes
and have no children are more likely to have returned to the city than
others, says William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution
in Washington.

The city was 59 percent black in 2006, the most recent census
figures available, compared with 68 percent in 2005. Census data shows
20.6 percent of New Orleans residents were below the poverty level last
year, compared with 24.5 percent in 2005.

OK, the fact that the demographics of New Orleans have changed coincident with the Katrina evacuation  is a fact.  It is based on probably the best demographic data available, though it is not clear that Mr. Frey has the evidence at hand to separate the effects of economic growth in New Orleans from migration patterns in explaining the drop in people below the poverty line, but I will cut him some slack compare to this next statement:

"The people who have come back are the people with the best resources
to come back," said Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution in
Washington who has studied the demographics of New Orleans. "The people
who have not come back are lower-income, minorities, largely renters.
They were the least equipped to come back and have not been able to."

This is a guess.  The data Mr. Frey is working with sheds no light on the reason certain groups did not return.  His statement that they did not come back because they did have the resources to do so is an unproven hypothesis.  I could easily offer a counter-hypothesis, that the issue was that these folks did not have the resources or the knowledge to leave New Orleans to find opportunities to escape their poverty, and having been granted the unique opportunity by the Katrina evacuation to get out, they have found opportunity elsewhere and see no reason to return to the place where they were formerly impoverished.  I actually think my hypothesis is more likely than Mr. Frey's, but in the end both of us are guessing.


  1. ErikTheRed:

    In (weak) defense of the article, Mr. Frey does seem to be some sort of an expert on demographic trends in large cities and is probably more fit than most to engage in conjecture on the subject. That being said, as you pointed out the article is all speculation, no facts, and single-sourced.

  2. jpt:

    Personally, i'm buying your view. I remember reading numerous post Katrina newspaper acticles about people moved to Houston, Atlanta, etc. who within two weeks of the storm had found better jobs, nicer apartments, in safer neiborhoods with better schools. Why would they go back?

  3. Larry Sheldon:

    I'm with you.

    (But I think there are some typo's that need fixing.)

  4. Larry Sheldon:

    Oh. To answer the question.

    The press has not changed much in my life time.

    "Dewey Wins"

  5. dearieme:

    Let 'em eat moose.

  6. John Dewey:

    The facts in this article, though perhaps correct, are misleading. The city of New Orleans was predominately black both before Katrina and today. Like those in most metropolitan areas, the suburbs of New Orleans were and still are predominately white. The last demographics I've seen show that the black segment of the Greater New Orleans population declined from 31% to 22% from 2005 to 2007.

    One simple reason all the poor blacks have not returned to New Orleans: the New Orleans City Council voted to destroy rather than restore most of the Lower 9th Ward housing projects rendered unliveable by Hurricane Katrina. For many of the poor, there was nothing to move back to. The free housing they had learned to depend on was just not there anymore.

    One more reason blacks may not have returned to New Orleans Lower 9th Ward: few homeowners there had flood insurance. Pre-Katrina Federal insurance maps had placed the Lower 9th Ward outside the high-risk flood districts. The Feds had assumed the levees would protect this area from flooding, and so lenders were not required to force home owners to obtain flood insurance.

    Finally, it is important to note that the free market would have depopulated the Lower 9th Ward anyway following disastrous flooding during 1965's Hurricane Betsy. But the socialist government of LBJ stepped in with community development grants and housing projects, ensuring that this overwhelmingly Democratic sub-community survived. IMO, many of the Katrina deaths can be blamed on the LBJ-directed re-population of this lowest lying, highest risk sector of New Orleans.

    Witness the miracles of central planning!

  7. Reformed Republican:

    Also, aren't there people still leaving in hotels and trailers on the taxpayers' dime. Why would they move back to places where they actually have to pay for their home?

  8. jpt:

    Thank you for assuming it a typo -- I almost always spell neighborhood rite.

  9. Angus S-F:

    From the wording in your blog posting (and the article cited): "But people who ... own homes ... are more likely to have returned to the city than others". I suspect this might be because they have something lose by leaving. If you don't own a home, then you're a renter, and you have no equity in your dwelling place. Those who own homes have an incentive to return, even if it's small. And if other taxpayers, through the good offices of "the government", will subsidize your dwelling, why not return?

  10. John Dewey:

    "Those who own homes have an incentive to return"

    The incentive for homeowners in the Lower 9th Ward - where the federal government decided that borrowers did not need flood insurance - is probably very close to zero.

    "And if other taxpayers, through the good offices of "the government", will subsidize your dwelling, why not return?"

    Because they've discovered that government will subsidize their dwelling wherever they wish to live.