When Brookings launched the Katrina Index 10 years ago (now the New Orleans Index run ably by The Data Center), our goal was to measure not just rebuilding activities but the extent to which the billions of government, philanthropic, and corporate dollars—and citizen sweat equity—were resulting in a more prosperous and sustainable region.
Ten years on, what we have found is sobering:
- Job growth in metro New Orleans is slowing, and the new jobs are predominantly low-quality.
- The economy has stalled and is not generating enough income to improve living standards.
- Metro New Orleans’ sluggish economy has been accompanied by growth in poverty and a decline in median household incomes.
Going forward, leaders must adopt bold reforms to lessen the region’s overreliance on tourism and the boom-and-bust oil and gas sectors to increase prosperity. This includes cultivating emerging competitive advantages, like water management, as well as helping existing industries, such as metal manufacturing and insurance and finance, innovate and move up the value chain.
Leaders also should follow the lead of communities like Louisville and Pittsburgh, forging regional collaboration around apprenticeships and workforce training.