NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The U.S. Census Bureau reports the population of New Orleans has increased sharply by people who moved to the city from out of town since Hurricane Katrina.
With the growth of eclectic neighborhoods such as Bywater, The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1fN81An ) the increasingly diverse local cuisine and all the talk about "brain gain" and young urban professionals coming to town, New Orleanians have long suspected the city's makeup is changing.
According to recently released census data, 8 percent of Orleans Parish residents in 2012 had been living in the city for a year or less, with about half of them having moved to New Orleans from outside the state.
In 2004, the year before Katrina, just 3 percent of the local population consisted of newcomers.
Before Katrina, New Orleans was often credited with having the highest proportion of "native-born" residents of any major American city.
In the 2000 census, 77 percent of New Orleanians were considered natives, meaning they were born anywhere in Louisiana.
The new census numbers don't indicate who is moving into the city or why, said Allison Plyer, executive director of the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, which analyzed the census numbers in a report issued Thursday.
The newcomers could be New Orleans natives who had moved away for college and decided to return home.
They could be residents who finally made their way back after being forced out by Katrina. Or they could be people who didn't previously have ties to the city but were pulled here by a job, love or wanderlust.
Business and civic leaders have been working to attract the latter group since Katrina.
It's not clear how big the community of true newcomers is, but anecdotal evidence — particularly some recent dust-ups between newcomers and longtime residents — suggests that it is thriving.
"When we started 504ward, we wondered if people would keep coming," said Jessica Shahein, executive director of the organization dedicated to keeping young talent in New Orleans. "We've just been blown away."
Shahein said she still meets three to four new New Orleanians each week.