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|What the Census told us|
Every 10 years the federal government counts the number of people living in the United States. It's commonly called the Census.
The U.S. Census Bureau is tasked with the chore of determining the population of the country. Taking the Census is not an exact science, but to date, it's the best tool we have at our fingertips in determining the number people living in every state in the Union.
About two weeks ago, the U.S. Census Bureau released the second round of data concerning the latest Census. That would be the 2010 Census. We're expected to believe it captured an accurate picture of population trends across the country, including northeastern Louisiana.
Assuming the Census Bureau got it right in counting the number of people living in northeastern Louisiana as of 2010, it would be within reason to describe the latest Census figures as disturbing to say the least. They were disturbing because northeastern Louisiana in general posted another decade of losses on the population front.
For Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, the findings of the 2010 Census were alarming. In reading published reports about Mayo's response to the latest Census, he was shocked to learn Monroe's population as of 2010 topped out at about 48,000 and some change. Talk about missing the mark.
The 50,000 population threshold was important for Monroe. It was important because cities with a population of 50,000 or more are labeled entitlement cities by the federal government, or cities that are automatically eligible to receive federal funding such as Community Development Block Grants. Though Monroe's population fell below 50,000 as of 2010, the city will continue to receive federal funding as if money grows on trees because Monroe serves as the hub for all of northeastern Louisiana.
At least that's what Mayo tells us. We'll know for sure in time.
We've known for years northeastern Louisiana was losing population thanks to a shrinking number of economic opportunities available to young people. Simply put, young men and women have fled the region to find good paying jobs elsewhere, which are not exactly plentiful anywhere from Farmerville to Ferriday and points in between.
Yet, it was a bit surprising that, according to the 2010 Census, Concordia and Ouachita were two of only a handful of parishes in Louisiana to gain population over the past decade. The growth the two parishes experienced from 2000-2010, though, wasn't exactly impressive.
In Concordia, the parish's population increased from 20,247 in 2000 to 20,822 in 2010. For Ouachita, the parish's population jumped from 147,250 in 2000 to 153,720 in 2010.
The growth in Concordia is a bit difficult to figure out. That's evident by the decline in population in Clayton, Ferriday and Vidalia, though Vidalia continues to stand out as a municipality on the move thanks to an aggressive mayor in Hyram Copeland and a town council that generally works with him.
It stands to reason that Concordia enjoyed a minor spike in population in light of the number of people who have built new homes along Lake St. John and Lake Concordia. Lakefront property along St. John and Concordia is beautiful. It's not cheap either. Anyone who's in the market to buy some should be prepared to pay anywhere from $750-$1,250 per square foot along the water. Not exactly a bargain by any means.
That Ouachita managed to pick up population from 2000-2010 was rather surprising since two major employers skipped town over the past decade – Guide Corp. and State Farm Insurance. Between the two, close to 2,000 good paying jobs and a more than $100 million annual payroll (between the two) disappeared. It was a lick the Ouachita Parish economy adversely feels to this day.
Meanwhile, the 2010 Census reminded us that the biggest problem facing the city of Monroe is what is commonly called "white flight." No one likes to acknowledge it publicly, but the facts speak for themselves. And the facts (2010 Census) told us Monroe is now roughly 64 percent African-American compared to 31 percent Caucasian.
Where did the "whites" go?
They headed to the hills in western Ouachita Parish and northeast toward Sterlington, for in western Ouachita and Sterlington the parish school system provides opportunities for children to obtain a decent education if they want one. Crime, relatively speaking, isn't a problem there either. Not yet anyway.
Why has Monroe evolved into a super majority minority city?
It's quite simple.
Monroe is saddled with a city school system that represents incompetence at its worst while a perception exists throughout the community that Monroe is plagued by crime. Add the two together and you have the perfect concoction to fuel "white flight" because "whites" will not stick around to wage an unwinnable battle. Instead, they'll simply move.
In the final analysis, northeastern Louisiana as a whole should expect to witness a continuing decline in population as long as the economy putters along at a snail's pace. We should expect it, too, as long as elected officials and others stick to their guns, so to speak, in believing the cure for our ills revolves around turning to the state and federal governments for a handout.