East Baton Rouge Population Growth Slows to a Crawl

Apr 13, 2012

LSU Professor Troy Blanchard. (Tegan Wendland/WRKF)

Five hundred and fifty nine -- that's the number of residents the Census estimates East Baton Rouge Parish gained between 2010 and 2011, according to newly released figures.

The total parish population, about 441,000 as of July 2010, grew just .1 percent over the year.

WRKF's Tegan Wendland asked LSU demographer and sociology professor Troy Blanchard what to make of the dramatic drop off in growth.

WENDLAND: Would you say this is something to be alarmed about, or is the city kind of returning to a normal growth pattern after Hurricane Katrina?

BLANCHARD: The most recent numbers that came out showed a very, very low level of growth or basically no growth for the parish and that is a concern because our parish does have a good bit of natural increase, in other words, it has more births than deaths.

What pulled the numbers down was out-migration, essentially. We had more people leaving than moving in and that is especially problematic because migration and movement is something that everybody gets involved in. It's something that's mostly an activity by younger families and younger individuals, and so in the sense that we might be losing young families from the parish, that's an especially big point of concern because that then influences the number of children that are born and also just general economic activities in terms of retail and various infrastructure for the parish.

WENDLAND: On the positive side though, we have some pretty serious infrastructure problems here in the city and maybe having a slowdown in population growth could help us to focus on that?

BLANCHARD: That is an issue. Some of the infrastructure problems that have been brought to light most recently, in a sense though, are due to some of the out-migration - people moving to Ascension and Livingston - which has driven up some of the traffic on the interstate during the morning and afternoon commutes.

WENDLAND: So, you don't think they're going very far then?

BLANCHARD: No, I think that most of the population loss that we're experiencing through out-migration is being accounted for by Livingston and Ascension Parishes, there are just lots of families moving to those parishes. There is a flow out to Orleans Parish, but it's not nearly as pronounced as what we see with Ascension and Livingston and as we know, they've been in the list of the hundred fastest growing counties in the United States for some time, and part of what's driving that is that move of families.

WENDLAND: Mayor-President Kip Holden was quoted in The Advocate as saying he "didn't understand the numbers" and how they've changed so dramatically from 2010. The city grew by about 30,000 in 10 years - from 2000 to 2010 - then saw an increase of just .1 percent this last year. What do you make of that?

BLANCHARD: Well, when you look at it across a five or ten year period that statement is correct - there's not a lot of growth there. When you look at the annual rates though, what you see is that the growth was essentially a single year, which was the Katrina effect, which brought so many people to the area. Outside of that, when you look at the other years, between 2005 and 2010 the growth is slow.

WENDLAND: Can you speak at all to how the population is changing? Who's coming in and what does it mean for the labor market?

BLANCHARD: The latest statistics did not show any sort of race or sex or age information, and so that's something that we'll get later on this year and then using those data we can then make comparisons with the 2010 census and with prior years to see how that may have changed. But in general, it's unlikely that we're going to see major shifts in terms of the age structure of the parish, or ethnicity or gender, simply because we do have more people leaving than moving in, the flows are not so significant, like, for example for Orleans Parish during Katrina, that it would just radically alter the demographics for the parish. These are things that have kind of a trickle effect, they go slowly and you have to watch over a period of time to see a marked change.

WENDLAND: Well, thanks for your time.

BLANCHARD: Thank you very much.