NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 2, 2005

Will New Orleans thrive despite tragedy, or simply decline in its wake? The key may lie not so much in how much money Washington sends, but whether the events of this week will transform attitudes toward growth, economic diversification and commitment to the overall public good, says Joel Kotkin, a senior fellow at the New American Foundation.

Once the premier city of the south and commercial center of the Gulf, New Orleans has been losing ground for the better part of a century. Demographics tell much of the story:

  • In 1920, New Orleans' population was nearly three times that of Houston and nine times Miami's; it was the primary southern destination for European and Caribbean immigrants.
  • Now, both the Houston and Miami areas -- despite their own experience with natural as well as manmade disasters-- have populations more than three times larger.
  • During the 1990s, the Miami and Houston areas grew almost six times faster than greater New Orleans, and flourished as major destinations for immigrants, particularly from Latin America.

These newcomers have helped transform Miami and Houston into primary centers for trade, investment and services, from finance and accounting to medical care, for the entire Caribbean basin.

Perhaps New Orleans' leaders can think about reviving the entrepreneurial spirit that made the city a lure to the ambitious in its most glorious past, says Kotkin.

Source: Joel Kotkin, "New Orleans," Wall Street Journal, September 1, 2005; and Joel Kotkin, "The Best Places for Doing Business in America 2005," Inc. Magazine, May 2005.

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