10/04/2005

Population Loss Alters Louisiana Politics, chances to get better

The result is direct," said Mr. Stonecipher, who was formerly an assistant superintendent with the state Department of Education. "With the loss of population there will be a matching loss of revenue. You pick it. Look at education, whether it be Title IX or special education. This will be devastating."

Population Loss Alters Louisiana Politics - NYT

BATON ROUGE, La., Oct. 3 - The two recent gulf hurricanes may result in a significant loss of population for Louisiana, and state officials are now virtually certain that Louisiana will lose a Congressional seat - along with federal financing and national influence - after the 2010 census.

Having dislodged more than a million people in southern Louisiana alone, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita are also likely to alter the state's political landscape, demographers and political experts say, reducing the domination of New Orleans over the State Legislature and increasing the influence of suburban and rural areas.

With a low-wage economy and consistently poor educational performance, Louisiana was losing population even before the hurricanes. The state had a net loss of more than 75,000 people from 1995 to 2000, according to census figures. But the physical and psychological damage inflicted by the hurricanes could push tens of thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands, of people out of the state for good, state officials say, comparable only to the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression and possibly the 1927 floods.

"I'm not sure if history is going to help us with this because we've never had anything like it," said Karen Paterson, the state demographer. "But we have not shown a positive net migration in many years. I would expect that we would experience a significant loss of population statewide."

With evacuees now making decisions on whether to plant roots elsewhere, and the geographical future of New Orleans in question, it is impossible to say with any precision how many people will be in Louisiana at the end of the decade. A dependable number will have to wait until the 2010 census.

The numbers available now, however, are staggering. About 1.5 million people were initially evacuated from the damaged regions, roughly 1 million have applied for hurricane-related federal aid, 30,000 are in out-of-state shelters, 46,400 are in in-state shelters and 932 people have perished in the storms. Officials are unsure how many people are staying in hotels or with family and friends.

Many here were already expecting Louisiana to lose one of its seven Congressional seats because of existing out-migration and high growth rates in other states, but the impact of the hurricanes has solidified fears.

Glenn Koepp, secretary of the Louisiana State Senate and one of the main officials in the state's redistricting office, said Louisiana had fallen so far behind other states that even if it managed to increase by 7,000 people in the next five years, it would still lose a Congressional seat.

Elliott Stonecipher, a political analyst and demographer based in Shreveport, said the state faced a long-term reduction in federal aid as its population diminishes.

Population Loss Alters Louisiana Politics - New York Times

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