A Post-Katrina Census

| January / February 2008

The cleanup bill in the wake of the Gulf Coast hurricanes of 2005 keeps climbing to unprecedented heights in unexpected ways. The latest expenditure is also emblematic of the storm’s long-term political impact. Since millions of people were displaced by these tragedies, legislative power will shift radically in the region based on movement of the populace—as will the calculus federal agencies use to distribute funds. As a result, according to Governing (Aug. 2007), there’s pressure on the U.S. Census Bureau to do an accurate audit in 2010, and accomplishing this task fairly and efficiently won’t be easy or cheap. The affected areas have been plagued by a labor shortage, which means that hiring census workers for still-ravaged areas will be expensive. Plus, temporary residences and trailers are notoriously difficult to tally, and many houses that are unoccupied in early 2009, when census canvassing begins, may be occupied before the counting ceases a year later. So while the political winds are sure to shift, their direction will be the stuff of wild conjecture.