Census data finds NELA with fewer residents, more diversity
The US Census Bureau released 2020 census data late last week, showing slowing population growth and increasing diversity across the country. Northeast Louisiana was no exception.
Regionally, only the parishes of Ouachita and Lincoln experienced modest increases in population. West Carroll Parish and Madison Parish lost over 15% of their residents, and Tensas Parish experienced the most losses in the state with a 21% decrease in population. Ouachita Parish ranks as the eighth most populous parish in the state with 160,368 people.
These demographic data, as well as other census statistics, will be used within the framework of the ten-year legislative redistricting.
According to Tim Slack, a professor in the Department of Sociology at Louisiana State University, a key takeaway from the demographics is that Louisiana has seen population growth primarily along Interstate 10 and Interstate 12; the northern half of the state experienced population loss. Slack said this has been an ongoing issue for North Louisiana due to factors including lower levels of economic development, fewer job opportunities and the prevalence of poverty.
“The parishes in the northeast corner of our state and the Delta, it’s one of the poorest areas in the country,” Slack said. “And so there’s a long history of people, especially young people, moving away and looking for opportunities elsewhere.”
Slack said it’s anomalous that populations are growing in northern Louisiana, but it makes sense that Ouachita and Lincoln Parishes have seen modest growth due to the town of Monroe and area colleges. .
Slack said population growth is affected by people born, people who die, and people who move. While the number of people born can sometimes outweigh the number of people who die and move away, there could be cause for concern if the number of young people does not balance out the number of old people.
Slack said communities with predominantly aging populations may continue to face economic pressures as they must provide new services that benefit the older generation. Moreover, they lose the workers who fulfill societal roles and contribute to the social security infrastructure.
These changes in population correlate with changes in dwellings and vacancies. The increase in the population of Ouachita Parish has seen an 8.6% increase in housing from 2010 to 2020. Of the approximately 70,000 housing units, 10.5% are vacant.
Dwellings in Tensas Parish decreased by 17.2% with 3,357 dwellings in 2010 and 2,779 in 2010. The vacancy rate was 36.5% for 2020.
The diversity in the region has increased in all areas despite the fact that some parishes still have lower percentages. When looking at the Diversity Index, or the likelihood that two randomly selected people are from two different racial and ethnic groups, Lincoln Parish maintained the highest score. In 2010 and 2020, the parish had the highest diversity index with 54.3% and 56.8%, respectively.
Other parishes with a diversity index above 50% are Ouachita, Tensas, Morehouse, Richland and Madison. West Carroll remains the least diverse parish with a diversity index of 34%. Overall, Louisiana’s statewide diversity index rose from 53.3% to 58.6%.
Although diversity has increased in the region, the major racial and ethnic groups remain white and black or African American. Kevin Washington, who heads the sociology and psychology department at Grambling State University, said this pattern is partly the result of historic slavery in Louisiana and other southern states.
Nationally, the white population fell for the first time; in Louisiana, the white population fell from 60.3% to 55.8%. This has raised the question of how white supremacist terrorist groups will respond.
Washington said that to understand changes in white population data, note that “white” as a population group is a modern construct. Originally, immigrant groups in America identified themselves as Russians, Italians, Irish, etc., and these groups were seen as distinct from the British who controlled the country. In a 1908 play called “The Melting Pot” by Israel Zangwill, the idea of these groups becoming one under the umbrella of “whites” is introduced.
“So even if you look at demographic change, you have to look at what created the ‘white’ idea in the first place,” Washington said. “It was an idea, then ‘white’ becomes ‘white and/or other’. But if that’s the real diversity in this country, we’d be talking about Irish, Irish American, African, Afro -Americans, Asians, Asian Americans.”
Although this is the first time census data has shown a decline in America’s white population, Washington said the situation is not new. The immigrants who came to North America had a smaller population than the native communities already in place.
“Can the population that came here as strange strangers from their own land embrace the diversity or populations that exist in the world that also exist in this space?” Washington said. “That’s the real question, not the question of whether we should be afraid of reprisals from this diversity.”
“Can those who perpetually commit violence become receptive to the existing diversity that exists in the world and see themselves as participants or part of the population of the world?”
Follow Sabrina LeBoeuf on Twitter @_sabrinakaye and on Facebook at https://bit.ly/3B8sgHo.
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