The Jindal administration’s continuing claim to have ended a quarter-century of population outmigration from Louisiana is currently being restated by the governor and various of those on his personal / political team. A recap of those assertions is in today’s Morning Advocate in Bill Lodge’s article, here.
My point continues to be the most basic one: if we subtract from these supposed migration “gains” and “losses” the churn of Louisiana residents who temporarily moved away from the state in the aftermath of Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav, only to return a year or more later, then we would be able to see what’s actually happening. In other words, only about now can we begin to study this issue as we had long been doing before the hurricanes hit. To do otherwise is to capture the “churn” data to make a political claim.
To boot, there is the issue of the “in-migration” of those working on the rebuilding of New Orleans and other areas hit hardest by the hurricanes. Are these permanent residents?
I don’t blame Bill Lodge for not wanting to do it, but to understand the difficulty in buying into the governor’s assertion, a quick trip into the bushes and weeds of American Community Survey (ACS) data is necessary. I’ll keep this as simple as possible, and here are key points:
- The data on which the article is based, for 2010, shows 97,889 people moving into the state, and 88,131 moving out, which looks at first glance like a net gain of 9,758 people, in a total population of about 4,500,000.
- With ACS data – calculated from random surveys of Americans – the margin of error is stated in numbers of persons, for each piece of data. In this case, the margin of error for the in-migration number is 8,319 and it is 8,540 for the outmigration number.
- If the margin of error is assigned to its maximum on both numbers – subtracting 8,319 from the number of those moving in, and adding 8,540 to the number moving out – then we in-migrated 89,570 and outmigrated 96,671, a net outmigration of over 7,000 people.
- Such application of the maximum margin of error in both (and opposing) directions does not, in all likelihood, represent the real number, but it does show that given where these numbers come from, and how they were calculated, we do not want to make a big deal out of the possible net gain of some 9,000 or fewer people in one year of ACS data. (ACS Gulf States Overview)
Even using the very best (Jindal) case, Bill Lodge puts all of this in context:
“Immigration figures released in December 2009 by Louisiana Economic Development showed a population gain of 33,400 in 2007. The same report showed a gain of 17,800 in 2008 and a boost of 18,100 in 2009. That would make the estimated increase for 2010 of 9,758 a significant downward drop.”
That means we know where the trend-line is headed again, even if we buy the best-case numbers.
Continuing Net Loss of Those With Highest Educational Attainment
In the same data-set on which Bill Lodge is reporting, the ACS shows 6,334 (margin of error, 1,459) people moving into the state with undergrad and graduate degrees, and 8,324 (margin of error) moving away from Louisiana, a net loss of 1,990. This is a continuation of a strong trend of losing some of the highest-paid and best educated residents over a substantial period of time.
Rising Percentage of Those At Poverty Level
Finally, with data being released at nearly the same time as the population migration data, is the news that Louisiana’s poverty rate in 2010 – 18.7% – had jumped to almost as high as the 19.0% level recorded in the year after Katrina, 2006.
Personally, it isn’t that I misunderstand the governor’s extraordinary use of state resources to put the very best face on everything happening in our state, it is rather that we must always remember that the driving force in all he does is the advancement of his political career. No one wishes more than I that everything in Louisiana is coming up roses, but such is simply not the case. Furthermore, the underlying demographics of our residents promises much worse news ahead.
With these few more facts in hand, each of you will form your own opinion.
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