Posted 7 January 2006 Forthcoming in The Industrial Radical
According to an article published in the Los Angeles Times entitled Katrina Killed Across Class Lines,
The bodies of New Orleans residents killed by Hurricane Katrina were almost as likely to be recovered from middle-class neighborhoods as from the citys poorer districts, such as the Lower 9th Ward, according to a Times analysis of data released by the state of Louisiana.The article’s claim is that people were equally likely, regardless of income, to be killed by Hurricane Katrina. However, as the article notes a few lines down, more than one in four residents [of New Orleans] lives below the poverty level. Within the space of a few paragraphs, the article notes that half of the victims were found in impoverished neighborhoods, that the poverty rate in New Orleans was around twenty-five percent (in fact, it is twenty-eight percent), and leaps to the astonishing (to put it mildly) conclusion that Katrina hit the poor and the well-off equally hard. Let me restate this: in spite of the admission that the percentage of bodies found in poor neighborhoods is twice the poverty rate of the city, it claims deaths citywide were distributed with only a slight bias for economic status. (Italics mine.)
The analysis contradicts what swiftly became conventional wisdom in the days after the storm hit that it was the citys poorest African American residents who bore the brunt of the hurricane. Slightly more than half of the bodies were found in the citys poorer neighborhoods, with the remainder scattered throughout middle-class and even some richer districts.
Of the 528 bodies recovered from identifiable addresses in city neighborhoods, 230 came from areas that had household incomes above the citywide median of $27,133. The poorer areas accounted for 298 bodies. The state official in charge of identifying Katrinas victims, Dr. Louis Cataldie, said he was not surprised by the findings. We went into $1-million and $2-million homes trying to retrieve people, he said.A few paragraphs later in the article, we see it again:
New Orleans was the site of most of Katrinas fatalities; the state reported that 76% of storm deaths statewide occurred in the city. Of the 380 bodies from New Orleans that have been formally identified, a moderately disproportionate number are white. New Orleans population was 28% white, yet 33% of the identified victims in the city are white and 67% black.As the article states, fewer than half of the bodies recovered have been identified, because most are in very advanced states of decomposition. Presumably, the races of these bodies were also impossible to determine. However, something more can be determined about this claim. Unfortunately, due to sample size, only poverty rates for the black and white communities in New Orleans were available. However, the available data indicates that more than eight times as many black people lived in poverty as did white people (88,000 to 10,750). This indicates that there is a good chance that any body found in a poor neighborhood was the body of a black person, and, by extension, that bodies are being found at a disproportionately high rate in poor neighborhoods, which were almost entirely black, that the majority of victims were black, even if the majority of bodies for whom race can be identified are white.
The affected population is more multiracial, multiethnic and multicultural than one might discern from national media reports, said Richard Campanella, a Tulane University geographer who has studied which parts of the city were hit the worst by flooding. His research showed that predominantly white districts in the city were almost as likely to flood as predominantly black ones.
The article can be found here:|
Statistics on poverty in New Orleans can be found at the following sites:
Benjamin Kilpatrick is a native of New Orleans and is enrolled at the University of New Orleans. He can be reached at email@example.com. He blogs at paxetlibertas.blogspot.com.