DEMOGRAPHICS IS DESTINY?

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How Two-Decade Changes in a Key Demographic Trait Challenge Public Policy in Caddo, Bossier and Louisiana

An oft-repeated axiom in the study of population change is “demographics is destiny.”  Over time, however, those of us who study these key and predictive traits come to see that it is more accurate to say that “demographics is destiny if nothing interrupts.”

For those of us who live where our demographic destiny is downright alarming, public policy change must be that quickly chosen interruptor.  To date and to our detriment, Louisiana and Caddo / Shreveport government have not gotten this memo.  While Bossier leadership uses targeted public policy change no better than their neighbor public officials to the west, Bossier can fairly claim that it has been in the right place at the right time.

As the public release of 2010 Census data continues, local-level details of key demographic traits reveal much.  Although much of the detail we used to get from Census long-forms has been replaced by the Bureau’s American Community Survey, the 2010 short-form did ask and record our age, a very important trait to study and understand.  It is my belief that no single demographic trait tells more about any particular population, especially when tracked over longer periods of time.  As a key example noted in this report, the incidence in any population of women aged 20-to-44 directly indicates future population growth from births.

Attached to this e-mail is .pdf version of a table detailing the age of Caddo, Bossier and Louisiana residents now (as of the April 2010 Census) and 20 years ago.  I chose 1990 for comparison because a strong population storm which had hit us – the late-1980s “drying up of the oil patch” – was then well into being felt and measured.  In fact, the last real growth reported for Caddo Parish and much of the rest of Louisiana was in the mid-1980s, just before that economic disaster.  Owing mainly to the population outmigration which resulted, we have been a completely different – and certainly not better – place since.

Overall Population Growth

As you review the attached table, first note the top and bottom (blue / purple) lines.  The footnote line at the bottom of the table refers to the benchmark for comparison of population growth between 1990 and 2010, i.e., the national population growth of 24.14%.  Then, the top data line shows Louisiana statewide population growth at a much lower 7.4%, Caddo Parish’s stagnation measurement of a two-tenths-of-one-percent (0.2%) gain, and Bossier Parish’s 35.9% relative explosion.

It is important to remember that such population study is about only three things:  births, deaths and migration.  In Louisiana, our ratio of births-to-deaths is about 1.5 births to a (1.0) death.  This means simply that if a typical, existing population of people in Louisiana, such as we in Caddo Parish, continue living here – the population still grows; for every person who dies, a statistically stated one-and-a-half people replace her / him.  The reason Caddo has stagnated (and the reason Shreveport now has 6,000+ people fewer than in 1980) is because so many people “vote with their feet” and move away.

School-Aged Children and Births:  The Imperative for the Caddo Parish School Board (and LA schools) to Shrink

All yellow-colored boxes of data in the table are evidence of how many fewer school-aged children there are now compared to 1990, AND how many fewer there will likely be in the future.

a.  In Louisiana, statewide, and in Caddo, all school-aged children subgroups of age have shrunk notably since 1990.  In the “School-Aged Children” line of data, the summary is shown:  by 2010, Caddo had -10.4% fewer children than in 1990, while Bossier Parish had +18.8% more.

b.  Women 20-to-44 years old have declined -9.5% in Louisiana and -9.1% in Caddo, but have increased +17.4% in Bossier.  At an average of about two children per mother, the math for Caddo and Louisiana predicts a future with many fewer kids in school.

The Young Adult Lifeblood of a Healthy Community

Questions about the future leadership of Louisiana and Caddo are often heard, and these data (turquoise boxes) offer little help:  since 1990, those in Caddo who are 25-to-34 have declined -9.5%, with the statewide loss at -10.7%.  Before we worry about whether or not our young adults are stepping-up and doing their part in leading Shreveport, Caddo and Louisiana, we might first consider what these data mean about what we offer them.

A Boomer Outmigration Already Underway in Caddo Parish?

Given what we now know about Shreveport and Caddo having by far the highest property (and some other) taxes in Louisiana, none of us is surprised when we hear of these taxpayers – disproportionately boomer-aged – moving to lower-taxed areas.  Given that both Bossier Parish to the immediate east and Texas a few minutes west meet that test, we should not be surprised at these data (green boxes).  Boomers are those who are now 46 to 64 years old, and these data show that  those 50-64 have jumped +63.8% in Louisiana since 1990, and +83.4% in Bossier Parish, but have increased a notably lower +49.9% in Caddo Parish.  Without an interruptor – e.g., notably lower taxes – this trend can be expected to accelerate.

A Much “Older” Bossier Parish

Those 50-to-64, and those Over 65, have dramatically jumped in Bossier Parish since 1990, by +83.4% in the case of the former group, and by 79.9% in the case of the latter.  Put another way, while those older than 50 were 22.1% of the Bossier Parish population in 1990, they are now 33.1%.  Are they retirees from outside the area, or those who have fled high taxes in Caddo?  We can’t say at this point, but they certainly connote a challenge for Bossier going forward.

Public Policy Intervention?

There are many, many other points which could be noted here, but I believe these are the most important.  As we consider them, we can immediately shift to thinking about solutions.

For me, the first thing is to get currently serving elected officials to stop ignoring these facts.  From the governor down to our city and parish governing bodies, that is the first cup of Hokum Juice almost all of them drink immediately upon election.

The second necessary interruptor in Shreveport and Caddo is for our “leaders” to declare the last war – race – over.  It was never a luxury we could afford, and it is less so every day.  I believe most people here feel as I do:  whether an elected official who is a racist is white or black doesn’t matter.  The trade they ply is more obvious – and more repugnant – each and every day.

More broadly, the public policy response for Louisiana and Caddo – detailed in numerous and continuing studies – is lower taxes.  If there is any other single thing we might do that is quicker and more direct, I haven’t heard of it, but stand ready to hear and learn.  Put simply, we have to offer some kind of deal to people already here to keep them here, and some kind of deal to those looking for a place to live to come here.  The states with lowest taxes have proven what our offer to them should be.  As taxing-and-spending continue, so will the fading-away of our communities.

Of course, we also have to offer quality educations from safe, high-performing public schools.  It is my opinion that the formation of Independent School Districts and other proven public education alternatives must be established, and quickly.  Doing so, however, has to be done without damage to the educations offered children who remain in the existing system.  I know … a clear majority of the Caddo School Board is not interested in such change.

Finally, a few of us deal almost every day with the effects of the Bossier leadership’s more and more aggressive anti- Shreveport and anti-Caddo Parish activity.  On that subject, I would only suggest that our friends in Bossier’s political leadership consider how they – as only one example – came by Barksdale Air Force Base, and how much of their “success” is mainly accidental.  With government transparency there about the worst in the state in my experience, it’s very difficult to study what has and has not been successful.

Elliott Stonecipher

Evets Management Services, Inc.
6658 Youree Drive
Suite 180, #367
Shreveport, LA  71105
Phone:  318-424-1695

 

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