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Stranded in New Orleans and Facing Katrina

excerpts from a report from the Center for American Progress

Nearly a third of New Orleanians live below the poverty line. "Only a handful of large American cities have lower household incomes." Conditions are even worse for children. Fully half of the kids in Louisiana live in poverty -- the only state with a higher child poverty rate is Mississippi, another victim of Katrina. One quarter of New Orleans residents -- some 134,000 people -- don't own a car.

The city is 67 percent African American, but the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood, "which was inundated by the floodwaters," is more than 98 percent black. There, "only 6 percent of residents are college graduates," compared to the national average of 22 percent. "Average household income in that neighborhood is $27,499 a year, not even half the national average of $56,644. One-quarter of the Lower Ninth Ward's households earn less than $10,000 a year." The city was already vulnerable.

By Monday, harsh rain and 145 mph winds were bearing down on New Orleans. Tens of thousands "found themselves left behind by a failure to plan for their rescue," despite the fact that they were "living in tumbledown neighborhoods that were long known to be vulnerable to disaster if the levees failed." One CNN reporter noted, "A lot of the people we spoke to [who were stranded], these are people who work for a living. They're making minimum wage, they're supporting families. They don't have a car. They wanted to evacuate before the storm came, but they couldn't evacuate because they tell us they didn't have transportation."

Time and again, residents despaired that Katrina had struck when it did, just a few days shy of payday. David Schuster observed, "Those are the people who died because they couldn't afford a tank of gas."

Katrina had already demonstrated "what experts have known all along -- disasters do not treat everyone alike," said NBC's Bob Faw. "Surviving is easier for whites who have than for blacks who don't."

You have been reading excerpts from "Values: The Forsaken" from the Center for American Progress. You can read the entire piece here: tinyurl.com/axv9g. Thanks to americanprogressaction.org.

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