Racial Divide Persists in New Orleans’ Katrina Recovery

The study also found that there were significant racial differences in treatment and perception of treatment during the recovery process.

The foundation reported that 81 percent of those still living in the New Orleans area have seen their quality of life deteriorate in one of seven categories. More specifically, 52 percent reported that their financial situation had worsened, and 37 percent said that they had experienced “significant life disruption in terms of housing or social network.”

New Orleans residents also reported numerous challenges to bouncing back from the hurricane; 49 percent had problems with health care coverage or access and 27 percent said they had either no job or were paid inadequate wages.

“We found almost the whole population is still affected in some way or other,” said the study’s author Dr. Drew Altman, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The magnitude of the impact is much bigger than we ever expected to see.”

In Orleans parish, which contains most of the actual city of New Orleans, there were stark racial differences in the responses; 59 percent of blacks said their lives were still personally disrupted, whereas 29 percent of whites responded similarly.

Blacks were more likely to report financial difficulties and housing problems than whites living in the same parish. Additionally, while 72 percent of blacks said they had health care problems in the wake of the storm, only 32 percent of whites had similar complaints.

In an interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Altman said, ” We see that there really is a huge and significant racial divide in the city.”

Black New Orleans residents “were more likely than whites to believe they were treated unfairly,” he said, citing findings that 55 percent of blacks believed they are given worse treatment and opportunities than whites. Only 29 percent of whites said they believed that to be the case.

In spite of the relatively negative findings, researchers also found a strong feeling of optimism among respondents. Sixty-three percent said that the recovery and rebuilding process are headed in the right direction, and only 11 percent said that they planned on moving out of the region.

Kaiser Family Foundation researchers conducted the survey in door-to-door interviews in September and November 2006, talking to 1,504 randomly selected adults.

Only about half of New Orleans’ pre-Katrina population of over 484,000 has returned to the city.

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