On the surface, the results of a new survey from NPR and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation are straightforward: 54 percent of people living in post-Katrina New Orleans think the city has mostly recovered from the disaster, citing new housing, rebuilt infrastructure, job availability, a mass return of the people who fled the city and overall improved quality of life. But breaking that statistic down by race reveals a major difference in the way black residents and their white counterparts see the recovery.
While 70 percent of white residents agree with the statement “New Orleans has mostly recovered from Katrina,” just 44 percent of African Americans believe that. When asked their opinion on the statement, “Rebuilding efforts have done a lot or some to help ‘people like you,’” 53 percent of blacks said yes, versus 67 percent of whites. And among those who were living in the city before the storm, 19 percent of blacks think race relations have improved in the city, versus 27 percent of whites. Just over half (56 percent of blacks and 58 percent of whites) think they have stayed the same.
Black New Orleans residents also feel less secure when it comes to the possibility of another devastating storm. A full 41 percent think the levees would be breached again if a storm like Hurricane Katrina hit the coast today, versus just 28 percent of whites. The researchers attribute this fear in part to the fact that blacks are more likely to live in the neighborhoods that stand the greatest chance of flooding.
When it comes to raising a family, 70 percent of whites think it is a good time grow up in New Orleans. That number dropped all the way to 37 percent when researchers asked black residents. That 33-percentage point gap is the widest it has been since the Kaiser Family Foundation began conducting quality of life surveys in New Orleans in 2008.