More than a quarter of New Orleans residents are living in poverty and more still are living in "asset poverty," lacking the means to support a household at the federal poverty level for three months should they lose their main source of income, a new report from the Corporation for Enterprise Development and the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center finds.
Commissioned by the Greater New Orleans and Ford foundations, the Assets and Opportunities Profile found that the poverty rate in the Crescent City is 27 percent, compared to a national average of 15 percent, and that 37 percent of all New Orleans residents are afflicted by asset poverty. For example, more than one in four middle-income households in the city — those earning between $45,655 and $70,014 — could not weather a job loss for three months without falling into poverty, while 17 percent of those who earn between $70,015 and $107,000 could face a financial catastrophe in the event of a sudden emergency.
The report also found that 21 percent of New Orleans residents lack health insurance; one in ten do not own a car, which, as Hurricane Katrina demonstrated, is a necessity for evacuating the city in advance of life-threatening weather conditions; four in ten households are un- or under-banked (i.e., may have a savings and checking account but have used non-bank money orders, non-bank check cashing services, payday loans, or pawn shops); and that 71 percent of New Orleans residents have a subprime credit score.
"With this asset data we have, for the very first time, a complete picture of the financial health of our most vulnerable neighbors," said GNOF president and CEO Albert Ruesga. "The results of this study confirm some hard truths. We want this to be a call to action. As a community we have to work together with a coordinated, multi-sector response because poverty affects everyone."