Louisiana continues to shed population, hurricanes and poverty blamed

The precipitous loss of residents that Louisiana has seen over the last three years has been spread across nearly every parish, with urban and rural areas alike seeing large decreases, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau estimate of local population changes that offers another stark sign of the challenge facing state leaders.
Some of the steepest declines were in areas hard-hit by hurricanes in recent years, or in parishes that have long struggled with dwindling populations. But the exodus from Louisiana was far more widespread than just those regions, the new data show, with only a dozen largely suburban parishes seeing any growth at all since the 2020 Census.
Louisiana saw its population shrink by more than 84,000 people between 2020 and 2023, including a drop of more than 14,000 last year.
Those losses were spread throughout the state. St. John the Baptist, Calcasieu and Terrebonne parishes, which all suffered serious damage from hurricanes Laura and Ida in recent years, saw their populations shrink by more than 5%. Orleans and Jefferson parishes, which have both been wracked with outmigration, saw drops that were only slightly smaller.
Overall, the average Louisiana parish lost about 2.4% of its population since 2020, according to the latest figures.
‘A concerning time’
Allison Plyer, chief demographer at The Data Center in New Orleans, said the latest data help establish that the population declines experienced by the state and its parishes are a clear trend.
And she noted that the widespread nature of the population loss, and the fact that it seems to be occurring without a single major catalyst, makes this decline different than those the state has seen in the past.
“It is a concerning time,” said Plyer. “We can see with more certainty the state is losing population” that isn’t driven by an economic shock like the oil bust of the 1980s or the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
“Our recent policies are not supporting population gain,” she said.
To be sure, there have been serious problems that likely contributed to the state losing residents in recent years. For instance, the devastating hurricanes that struck the coast since 2020 and the property insurance crisis that followed undoubtedly led some people to leave the state and others to avoid moving here.
But Plyer noted that more long-term issues were likely at play at well.
Louisiana residents suffer from poorer health than those who live in other states, which means they tend to die at younger ages. That means that births only barely outpaced deaths across Louisiana in recent years.
And in terms of migration, Plyer said the main factors that draw people to a state are lacking in Louisiana. Studies have shown an educated workforce is key to driving population growth, but state funding for higher education has fallen by a third on a per-student basis since 2008, she said. And there’s been essentially no job growth in the state since 2015, she noted.
Reversing the state’s population decline will be one of the biggest challenges for Gov. Jeff Landry, who in his first months in office has vowed to enact a conservative agenda he argues will improve the state’s education system and economy.
During the upcoming legislative session, lawmakers are readying bills, which Landry is expected to sign, that would expand the number of students who could use tax dollars to pay for private schools and enact other conservative priorities. But it’s not clear how changes in policy by state or local officials will be able to turn the tide given how rapidly some areas of the state have shed residents.
Cameron Parish, devastated by Hurricane Laura, saw a steeper decline in population than any county in the U.S., losing more than 15% of its population since 2020. Tensas and East Carroll parishes were only just outside the 10 steepest losses.
And the New Orleans-Metairie metro area saw the steepest loss among large metros nationwide, with its population declining by 4.3%. The metro area had traditionally been able to count on fast-growing St. Tammany Parish to improve its standing, but that ended in 2020 when the suburban parish was made into its own metro area.

Check Also

Beryl misses North Central Louisiana

Hurricane Beryl slammed into the Texas coast earlier this week, ripping through Houston and east …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *