WWNO skyline header graphic
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Local Newscast
Hear the latest from the WWNO/WRKF Newsroom.

New Coastal Index Measures Population Shifts, Economic Opportunity In Changes To Land And Water

Sunset on the Mississippi River, with a view of New Orleans.

The Data Center released its first Coastal Index this week. WWNO's Jack Hopke sat down with Executive Director Allison Plyer and Senior Research Fellow George Hobor to learn more.

Among the lessons learned, data since 2005 show many coastal communities, like Chauvin and Dulac, are losing residents. Those choosing to stay are more likely to be poor than those who leave. That means the remaining population is more vulnerable to events like storms, with fewer resources to help them bounce back after disaster.

At the same time, managing infrastructure to better prepare or respond to water disasters, or manage water on an everyday basis, poses an economic opportunity for the region. That includes everything from construction jobs in the building of levees and breakwaters, to the high-level engineering and architectural expertise needed, to the possibility of growing advanced manufacturing in the region.

If Louisiana can grow industries like in the development of special vehicles that can drive in higher water, it stands to gain from that expertise and possibly export it elsewhere.

The Coastal Index was created to acknowledge that coastal issues are a sector worth understanding on their own. Two examples that helped the Data Center choose to create the index: the creation of Tulane University's riverfront campus, and the new Baton Rouge Water Campus, an industrial park that aims to attract businesses dealing with water management issues, and put them in one place for better collaboration and understanding.

                                         The Coastal Index, In Numbers

The following statistics provided by The Data Center’s Coastal Index represent the The Southeast Louisiana super region, composed of the three metropolitan statistical areas of Houma-Thibodaux, New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and the three additional parishes of St. James, Tangipahoa, and Washington.

  • Louisiana has lost 1,880 square miles of coast land over the last 80 years
  • Scientists expect that if no action is taken to save the coasts an additional 1,750 square miles will disappear by 2064
  • The energy and petrochemicals sector is the largest sector in Southeast Louisiana, employing 71,194 in 2013
  • The water management economy is the second largest sector in Southeast Louisiana, with 64,587 jobs in 2013
  • The water management economy in Southeast Louisiana grew by 7,832 jobs from 2010 to 2013
  • In the water management sector, jobs in occupations offering wages in the $15 to $30 an hour range can be acquired with as little as a high school diploma, supplemented by various levels of on-the-job training.
  • Those that acquire a bachelor’s degree and supplement it with experience earn over $30 an hour on average
  • The share of workers in Lafourche Parish commuting from outside the parish has grown from 41 percent in 2004 to 51 percent in 2011
  • In Theriot and Dulac, LA, more than 40 percent of the population lives in poverty
  • At least three small coastal communities have lost 70 or more occupied households each
  • since July 2005
  • The national average of per capita income is $28,051
  • the southeast Louisiana average of per capita income is $25,837
  • The average of per capita income in Theriot, LA is  $12,753

Support for coastal reporting on WWNO comes from the Walton Family Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Kabacoff Family Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Jack is a Program Host and Producer at WWNO and has been with the station since 2003. He hosts and produces Saturday Night Jazz. He also serves as the station's Public Service and Jazz Coordinator.