NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 10, 2006

Houston and New Orleans share similar geography, climate and history, but little else, says Joel Kotkin, of New America Foundation. Indeed, during the 1920s, Houston policy makers made a conscious effort to revamp the city's economy, eventually making the city a top choice for entrepreneurs, and a fertile ground for emerging industries. On the other hand, New Orleans policy makers went in an opposite direction.

For example:

  • Though critics claim Houston's polices advance the local business community (while neglecting poor and minority populations), such policies mean increased wealth and quality of life for all its citizens.
  • Houston's infrastructure, with its superior levees, filled potholes and streamlined regulations, helps protect against natural disasters.

On the other hand:

  • Officials in New Orleans succumb to chronic political "favor asking," and the city-wide corruption turns off entrepreneurs and anesthetizes the local economy.
  • New Orleans' policy makers focus more on its tourism industry instead of proven strategies, such as promoting business.

Indeed, Houston's solid infrastructure and stable economy allows its citizens to continue to help the 150,000 Katrina evacuees, who chose to remain in the Texas city, says Kotkin. For example:

  • Houston residents help former Louisianans -- most of whom are poor and non-white -- find permanent jobs, housing, schooling and a sense of community.
  • A group of New Orleans social-work students, now finishing their graduate degrees at the University of Houston, says the key attraction to Houston is its opportunity.
  • Some 75 percent of evacuees remained in Houston, they say, because of the welcome they received.

Source: Joel Kotkin, "A Tale of Two Cities," The American Enterprise, January / February 2006.


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