Last month, 2010 Census data was released for Louisiana. This data showed that East Baton Rouge Parish grew 7% since 2000, and that its 2010 population of 440,171 makes it the largest parish in the state. Though this rate of growth was faster than Louisiana’s, EBR’s growth was less than the national average. This 7% growth, however, disguised considerable population and demographic changes within the parish. We would like to analyze these changes both from a growth and a demographic perspective.
Population Growth/ Demographic Changes
East Baton Rouge Parish’s 7% growth would seem to indicate modest parish-wide population growth. A more detailed examination of the growth patterns, however, shows that growth patterns were uneven.
Furthermore, if we were to look at the demographic breakdown, we would see that in the 2000 Census, the racial breakdown of East Baton Rouge Parish was 56-40% white/black (2% were Asian, and 2% were Hispanic). The 2010 Census, however, showed that East Baton Rouge became a “majority minority” parish, as its white population dropped below 50%, and the black population increased to 45%. What this means in absolute numbers is that the white population decreased by 17K as its black population increased 34K. This demographic change was brought about both by Hurricane Katrina and continuing suburban migration to Livingston, Ascension, and (recently) West Baton Rouge Parishes. Below is our analysis of the population/demographic changes for various regions of EBR:
Area 1 – Inner city neighborhoods, as well as the Scotlandville and Glen Oaks areas in north Baton Rouge, lost 5% of their population, and 92% of the 102K who live in these areas are black. This is relatively unchanged from 2000, when 89% of the population in this area was black;
Area 2 – Baker and neighborhoods between Florida Boulevard and Greenwell Springs Road have been “Ground Zero” for outmigration of middle class/blue collar whites over the past two decades. The population only grew 2% (to 55K), and a more detailed analysis shows that the black percentage in these neighborhoods went from 52 to 72%. In absolute numbers, this means that 12K whites left the area, and 12K blacks moved in;
Area 3 – Demographic changes were even more pronounced in white collar neighborhoods between Florida Boulevard and Tiger Bend Road east of Airline Highway. While this area grew 12% (to 67K), the “growth” was entirely due to demographic changes – 10K whites moved out, and 14K blacks moved in. This more than doubled the black percentage, from 14 to 32%. This rapid change has also been reflected in the voter registration statistics for the area, and precincts that once gave Ronald Reagan nearly 90% of the vote in 1984 gave David Vitter as little as 53% of the vote last year;
Area 4 – Parts of the parish that were developed in the 70s, 80s, and 90s saw their population growth ebb, and demographic changes in these areas were modest. The two specific regions of the parish we’re referring to are: (a) the Shenandoah/White Oak Landing area between Jones Creek Road and the Amite River, (b) middle to upper income neighborhoods between I-10 and Bayou Fountain past Staring/Essen Lane. In these areas, population growth was 10% (to 40K people), and the black percentage increased modestly from 16 to 20%;
Area 5 – The southeastern part of the parish (defined here as all neighborhoods south of Tiger Bend Road and east of Pecue Lane/I-10) continued its explosive growth: it grew 34% (to 16K people), and its black population increased from 7 to 13%;
Area 6 – The establishment in 2003 of an independent school system for Zachary in the northwestern corner of East Baton Rouge Parish contributed to its 28% population growth (this region now has 22K people). Curiously, this has led to biracial in migration into the area, as the black percentage increased from 34 to 39%;
Area 7 – One would think that the 2007 establishment of an independent school system in Central in the northeastern corner of East Baton Rouge Parish would lead to explosive population growth. However, Central’s population only grew 2% over the last decade, to 32K people (local officials plan to challenge this population count). Even more surprising, the black population doubled from 6 to 11%. A detailed analysis of the data showed that the white out migration was matched by a similar black in migration;
Area 8 – More established neighborhoods in south Baton Rouge between Dalrymple and Staring Lane showed little population growth or demographic change. The area lost 2% of its population (to 45K people), and its black population remained steady at 16%. Curiously, the LSU precinct saw a decrease in its black population of about 500 people;
Area 9 – The Mid City part of town (defined here as the area between I-10, Airline, and College Drive south of Florida Blvd) showed 13% growth, to 29K residents. This growth, however, was concentrated in Jefferson Terrace (47% growth) and an area near the intersection of Old Hammond, Jefferson, and Corporate, where new developments led to 32% growth. The black population in the area increased from 11 to 18%, and in fact was the reason the population “grew” in this part of town;
Area 10 – The southwestern portion of the parish (roughly everything south of LSU between Bayou Fountain and the Mississippi River) showed 43% population growth (32K live here now). Surprisingly (unlike other parts of the parish) there was a decrease in the black population from 33 to 29%. This was due to explosive growth in and around Gardere (the black population in those precincts went from 62 to 45% black), and near the Riverbend subdivision.
Below is a graphical depiction of the black population in each of East Baton Rouge Parish’s voting precincts:
Thus far, we have talked about demographic changes in the context of the white/black population. What about Hispanics and Asians? While the population of Asians grew 44% over the last decade, and the Hispanic population increased 121%, their presence in Baton Rouge is relatively insignificant – Hispanics now represent 4% of the population, while 3% of East Baton Rouge’s population is Asian. However, there are now neighborhoods in town where they are more concentrated. Even though only 21 voting precincts have an Asian population of 5% or more, the LSU precinct is 31% Asian, and the Sherwood Forest precincts are now 10% Asian. Similarly, while the Hispanic population is over 5% in 33 precincts, they represent 28% of the population in an area between Coursey Boulevard, Cedarcrest Drive, and Sherwood Forest Boulevard. In Red Oak (between Choctaw Drive, Florida Boulevard, and North Sherwood Forest Boulevard), 19% of the residents are Hispanic, and in one of the Gardere precincts, they are 14% of the population.
What is/are the political implication(s) of these demographic changes? Since whites are no longer a numerical majority in East Baton Rouge Parish, we believe that by the 2020 Census (and likely before that), East Baton Rouge will be a black majority parish. A direct result of this demographic change is that it will be more difficult for Republicans to win parish-wide races. It also means that the growing Asian and Hispanic populations have the potential of being a “swing vote” in some elections, particularly in the parts of the parish where they are concentrated.