After Hurricane Katrina: Where Are They Now?

Population and housing estimates from last decade show how Hurricane Katrina affected Gulf Region

Written by: Sarah Gibb, statistician/demographer, Population Division

As you might know, we released the population estimates for cities and towns last week. However, following Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, the U.S. Census Bureau did not release these estimates for four Mississippi Gulf Coast communities— Bay St. Louis, Long Beach, Pass Christian and Waveland in 2006. The cities sustained severe damage from Katrina, and the impact to their populations and housing stock could not be reliably measured.

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In the aftermath of the storm, the Gulf Coast would face many years of rebuilding, and learning how populations were rebounding would be critical for community leaders. For the Census Bureau, producing population estimates for places where many homes had been destroyed and people displaced presented a unique but vital challenge.

Between 2006 and 2009, the Census Bureau used a variety of methods and data sources, including data from the U.S. Postal Service, to estimate the impact to the population and housing stock in the counties and parishes hit hardest by the hurricane.

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In 2008, we used the number of active utility connections to produce a complete time series of housing and population estimates for these cities, going back to 2006. By 2009, the Census Bureau had resumed the pre-2006 methods for estimating housing units and populations for almost all cities and towns across the country. We estimated 2006 county and parish housing units in Orleans and St. Bernard parishes by first calculating the ratio of the 2006 household population to the 2005 household population. We applied the ratio to the 2005 county housing unit estimate to produce the 2006 estimated housing.

The population and housing unit estimates produced last decade, along with the 2010 Census counts and the 2015 estimates released today, provide a basis for understanding how Hurricane Katrina affected the Gulf Coast, and in particular the four Mississippi cities discussed in this blog.


Bay St. Louis — On July 1, 2005, the population stood at 11,287. Just one year later, it had declined by more than 2,000 people, or about 18 percent. Its population remained flat through 2010 but recovered over the next five years, increasing by about 2,800 (30 percent) to 12,030, or about 700 more people than in July 2005, before Hurricane Katrina. Of the four cities we looked at, it was the only one to surpass its pre-Katrina population.

Long Beach — Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Long Beach numbered 16,855, making it the largest of the four cities in terms of population. It also had the largest numeric loss after the storm. By July 1, 2006, its population had dropped by a little more than 2,200 (13 percent). By 2010, the city’s population had recovered to 14,790, or approximately 88 percent of its population before the hurricane. Like Bay St. Louis, the city of Long Beach saw its population increase from 2010 to 2015. Ten years after the hurricane, the city remained about 1,300 people shy of its pre-Katrina population with a population of 15,555.

Pass Christian — About a year after the hurricane, Pass Christian’s population had dropped 15 percent from its pre-Katrina estimate of 5,845, putting it just under 5,000 people. Its population continued to decline until 2010, when it reached a low of 4,613. From that point forward, however, the trend reversed and on July 1, 2015, the population estimate reached 94 percent of its pre-Katrina level.

Waveland — Of these four Gulf Coast communities, Waveland had the largest percent decrease in population in the year after Hurricane Katrina. On July 1, 2005, Waveland’s population was 7,849. A year later its population had declined by 18 percent and would remain mostly unchanged over the next four years. Between 2010 and 2015, the city’s population declined by another 40 people. Its population on July 1, 2015, was at about 82 percent of its population 10 years earlier.

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Housing Units

Every year, the Census Bureau releases population estimates for cities and towns across the country, and housing unit estimates for the nation, states, and counties. Of the four cities discussed previously, Bay St. Louis and Waveland are in Hancock County. Long Beach and Pass Christian are in Harrison County.

Hancock County — On July 1, 2005, Hancock County had 24,179 housing units. About one year after Katrina, it declined by about 7,000 housing units, or 30 percent of its housing stock. By 2010, the housing stock had returned to approximately 90 percent of its pre-Katrina level. As of July 1, 2015, Hancock County was back up to 24,083 housing units, a mere 96 shy of where it stood 10 years earlier.

Harrison County — On July 1, 2005, Harrison County had 88,281 housing units, nearly four times as many as Hancock County. Almost a year after Hurricane Katrina, Harrison County’s housing stock decreased by more than 14,000 housing units, or about 16 percent of its housing estimate before the hurricane. Between July 1, 2006, and April 1, 2010, the reference day for the 2010 Census, almost 11,000 housing units were added, an increase of about 15 percent. By July 1, 2015, it had 90,749 housing units, about 2,500 more than it had 10 years earlier.

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These estimates reflect several years of special processing to produce a time series that accurately reflects the impact Hurricane Katrina had on these communities.

If you would like to continue to explore these estimates, or examine other population trends in the United States, please go to<>. You may also wish to contact the State Data Center of Mississippi for their perspectives on the population and housing trends highlighted here. To learn more about the characteristics in these areas, check out data from the American Community Survey and economic data.

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A Look at the Nearly 1 Million Who Ride Their Bikes to Work in the U.S.

The proportion of workers who commute by bicycle has remained small, but relatively steady over the last few decades. The number of  bike commuters, which has grown to nearly 1 million, has increased at roughly the same rate as the labor force, which has not been the case for some modes of commuting such as transit and walking.

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Brian McKenzie, a sociologist in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Journey to Work and Migration Statistics Branch, shares some additional insights into bike commuters:

Are men or women more likely to bike to work?

The number of men who bicycle to work still exceeds that of women, but the gender gap is narrowing. Women workers made up 28 percent of bike commuters in 2014, up from about 23 percent in 2006. Men made up about 77 percent of bicycle commuters in 2006, compared with 72 percent in 2014.


Do bike commuters tend to be younger?

Yes, the bicycle commuting rate generally declines as age increases. Younger workers not only had the highest rate of bicycle commuting but have also had  comparatively large gains in bike commuting since the mid-2000s. Between 2006 and 2013, the rate of bike commuting for ages 16 to 24 increased from 0.8 percent to 1.1 percent. The rate also went up for those age 25 to 29. The highest rates tend to be in small college towns. For example, 9.7 percent of workers in Berkeley, Calif., and 23.2 percent in Davis, Calif. — both  home to University of California campuses — biked to work in 2014.

Where do you see bike commuting on the rise the most?

Much of it is in metropolitan areas, specifically in cities, where bicycle commuting has increased over the last decade, both in number and as a proportion of all workers. The proportion of bicycle commuters in principal cities nearly doubled from 0.7 percent in 2006 to 1.2 percent in 2014. Many cities have invested in infrastructure to accommodate bicycle commuting. Starting in about 2010, bike-sharing systems started showing up in cities, large and small. Many cities have also invested in dedicated bicycle lanes and other elements of the built environment that make streets more bicycle friendly. Portland, Ore., for example, increased its bicycle commuting rate from 4.2 percent in 2006 to 7.2 percent in 2014. In Minneapolis, the rate went from 2.5 percent to 4.6 percent during that period.


Cycling Commuters graphic


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Simple Tools, Great Solutions: Creating Boundaries for Puerto Rico Urbanizaciones

Written by: Francia Torres and Tanya Sadrak, Geographers, U.S. Census Bureau

Puerto Rico addresses contain types of areas typically not seen in stateside addresses. One example is an urbanización, which is a named neighborhood similar to a stateside subdivision. To help maintain Puerto Rico addresses within the U.S. Census Bureau’s address database and to improve address update processes, the Geography Division is developing geographic information systems-based processes that use existing address structure points to draw boundaries for these areas. Our first priority is the urbanizaciones.

Getting these boundaries right is essential to achieving a complete and accurate count of all Puerto Ricans in the 2020 census and for an accurate Puerto Rico Community Survey every year.

Why do urbanizaciones matter?

In different urbanizaciones, house numbers and street names may repeat within a single ZIP code, resulting in identical addresses. In such cases the urbanización name is required to make the addresses unique.  Drawing spatial boundaries for an urbanización and creating relationships between the urbanización and census blocks makes geocoding addresses in urbanizaciones more feasible; however, currently the Census Bureau has no spatial boundaries for urbanizaciones.

Why create boundaries?

  • To provide a mechanism to use address ranges for geocoding Puerto Rico addresses that fall outside the stateside convention of having only not repeating a house number and street name within a given ZIP code. This is critical for the address database update of Puerto Rico addresses.
  • To identify nonstandard urbanización names, such as misspellings and alternate formats, currently in the address database and their standard forms. The standard forms will be used to update the address database and improve overall data quality.
  • To facilitate the generation of a list of urbanización names on the Census Bureau’s Listing and Mapping Application (LiMA) used to capture address information in the field. The intent is to provide LiMA users with a list of choices for urbanización names based on their assigned census block to increase efficiency and reduce input errors. It will also provide additional reference data for the Census Bureau’s in-office address canvassing operation.

How we do it?

The Geography Division standardizes address data, creates boundaries using structure points (latitude/longitude coordinates) currently associated with the address database and aligns polygon boundaries with authoritative and reliable third party sources. The figure below illustrates the process.

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Because the urbanizaciones names are one of the components that make addresses unique in Puerto Rico, the geocoding based on the urbanizaciones boundaries will ensure an updated and accurate address frame for use in surveys such as the 2020 Census and the Puerto Rico Community Survey.



Herramientas simples, excelentes soluciones: creación de límites para las urbanizaciones de Puerto Rico

Escrito por: Francia Torres y Tanya Sadrak, Geógrafas, Oficina del Censo de los Estados Unidos

WASHINGTON, 17 de mayo de 2016 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ — Las direcciones de Puerto Rico contienen ciertos tipos de áreas que generalmente no se ven en las direcciones de los Estados Unidos. Un ejemplo es la urbanización, que es un vecindario similar a una subdivisión en los Estados Unidos. Con el fin de mantener las direcciones de Puerto Rico en la base de datos de la Oficina del Censo de los Estados Unidos y mejorar los procesos de actualización de direcciones, la División de Geografía está desarrollando procesos de información geográfica basados en sistemas que usan puntos estructurales de direcciones existentes para trazar los límites para estas áreas. Nuestra primera prioridad son las urbanizaciones.

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Trazar estos límites correctamente es esencial para lograr un conteo completo y exacto de todos los puertorriqueños en el censo del 2020 y para lograr una Encuesta sobre la Comunidad de Puerto Rico precisa todo los años.

¿Por qué las urbanizaciones son importantes?  En distintas urbanizaciones, los números de las casas y los nombres de las calles pueden repetirse en un mismo código postal, lo que da como resultado que haya direcciones idénticas. En esos casos, se requiere el nombre de la urbanización para que las direcciones sean únicas. Trazar límites espaciales para una urbanización y crear relaciones entre la urbanización y los bloques censales hacen más viable la codificación geográfica de direcciones en urbanizaciones; sin embargo, actualmente la Oficina del Censo no tiene límites espaciales para urbanizaciones.

¿Para qué crear límites?

  • Para proporcionar un mecanismo que permita usar rangos de direcciones para hacer una codificación geográfica de las direcciones de Puerto Rico que no se ajustan a las convenciones de los Estados Unidos de no repetir un número de casa ni un nombre de calle en un código postal dado. Esto es fundamental para actualizar la base de datos de direcciones de Puerto Rico.
  • Para identificar nombres de urbanizaciones atípicos, como nombres con errores ortográficos y formatos alternativos, que se encuentran actualmente en la base de datos de direcciones y sus formas típicas. Se usarán las formas típicas para actualizar la base de datos de direcciones y mejorar la calidad general de los datos.
  • Para facilitar la generación de una lista de nombres de urbanizaciones en la Aplicación para Listar y Crear Mapas (LiMA) de la Oficina del Censo, que se usa para recopilar información de direcciones en el terreno. El propósito es ofrecer a los usuarios de LiMA una lista de opciones para nombres de urbanizaciones basados en su bloque censal asignado, con el fin de incrementar la eficiencia y reducir los errores en la entrada de datos. También proporcionará datos adicionales de referencia para la operación de recorrido de direcciones en los locales de la Oficina del Censo.Como los nombres de urbanizaciones son uno de los componentes que hacen que las direcciones en Puerto Rico sean únicas, la codificación geográfica basada en los límites de las urbanizaciones garantizarán una estructura de direcciones actualizada y exacta para que se usen en encuestas como el Censo del 2020 y la Encuesta sobre la Comunidad de Puerto Rico.

¿Cómo lo hacemos? La División de Geografía estandariza datos de direcciones, crea límites usando puntos estructurales (coordenadas de latitud/longitud) que están asociados actualmente con la base de datos de direcciones y alinea los límites poligonales con fuentes externas autorizadas y confiables. La siguiente ilustración muestra este proceso.

Como los nombres de urbanizaciones son uno de los componentes que hacen que las direcciones en Puerto Rico sean únicas, la codificación geográfica basada en los límites de las urbanizaciones garantizarán una estructura de direcciones actualizada y exacta para que se usen en encuestas como el Censo del 2020 y la Encuesta sobre la Comunidad de Puerto Rico.

Contacto para los medios: Public Information Office,, 301-763-3030.

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Understanding How the Share of Business Activity by Size Varies Widely by Industry

Written by: Andrew W. Hait

We’ve all heard about the importance of small businesses to the U.S. economy, but have you ever wondered what “small” means? Is it a business with a few employees, or is it based on sales? Is it based on an entire company, or each of its separate locations?

The Small Business Administration (SBA) defines a small business as a “business concern with less than 500 employees or less than $7.5 million in annual receipts.” While this SBA standard is essential for specific purposes, it is not necessarily the only way to define “small.”

Fortunately, the Census Bureau publishes detailed statistics that allow us to classify business size in a variety of ways and for a variety of purposes. For example,  the Economic Census, County Business Patterns, and the statistics of US Businesses  produce data on establishment and firm size with respect to employment and sales for detailed industries and at the National, State, and local  area levels.  These data sources provide detailed breakouts that allow users to build their own totals using their own size definitions.

Looking at the data from the Retail Trade Establishment and Firm Size report from the 2012 Economic Census, we see that gas stations with convenience stores (NAICS 447110) with seven to 14 employees make up only 36.2 percent of the businesses (35,222 out of 97,394 businesses) but nearly half (47.8 percent or $204.2 billion out of $427.1 billion) of the sales of this industry. Conversely, businesses with less than five employees make up 28.9 percent (or 27,182 businesses) of the total businesses but only 13.5 percent of the sales (or $57.5 billion.)

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Comparing this breakout with the data for the manufacturing sector (NAICS 31-33), we see a dramatically different picture. While 44.0 percent of all manufacturing businesses have less than five employees (130,715 out of 297,191 businesses), these businesses account for only 1.1 percent ($61.4 billion out of $5.7 trillion) of total shipments. On the other hand, 56.3 percent of all manufacturing shipments ($3.2 trillion out of $5.7 trillion) are from locations with 100 to 999 employees, though these locations make up only 7.8 percent (23,291 out of 297,191) of the total number of manufacturing businesses.

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While most Census Bureau data on businesses focus on companies with one or more paid employees (or “employers”), we also publish data on businesses with no paid employees, or “nonemployers.” These “small” independent contractors (and similar businesses) are the bulk (23 out of 30 million)_of all U.S. firms. Looking at the data from the 2013 Nonemployer Statistics report, we see that businesses with less than $25,000 in annual revenue make up 65.8 percent (or $15.1 million) of all nonemployers.

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These data can help users understand how the share of business activity by size varies widely by industry. Knowing this can help regional planners and economic development staff focus their limited resources on these key businesses and help small businesses grow. These data can also help business owners themselves better understand their own industry and compare their business to other businesses like them. Knowing this can help them with their business investment strategy by knowing what the “ideal” size of a business in their industry is and what to aspire to.

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Thousands of U.S. Veterans Call the Island Areas Home

Written by: Braedyn Kromer, Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division

Forty years ago, the Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands was signed, establishing a political union between the Northern Mariana Islands and the United States. In preparation for the 2020 Island Area Census, and as a way of recognizing the contributions of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and all of our U.S. Island Area neighbors, the U.S. Census Bureau has put together some information about a population that many people might not be aware we collect data about — Island Area veterans who have served in the U.S. armed forces.

According to the 2010 Census, there were 14,047 veterans living in the four Island Areas (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands) in 2010. They represented 5.6 percent of the civilian Island Area population age 18 and over. Guam reported the largest number of veterans at 8,041 (see Figure 1). At 7.9 percent, Guam also had the highest proportion of veterans in its civilian population 18 and over, compared with the other Island Areas. There are currently about 90,000 veterans living in Puerto Rico, but Puerto Rico is not part of the Island Areas census. Data on the population of Puerto Rico are collected annually in the Puerto Rico Community Survey, which is part of the American Community Survey program.

Figure 1.
Total Veterans 18 Years and Over, by Island Area: 2010

Total Veterans 18 Years and Over, by Island Area 2010
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Island Area Census

While the majority of U.S. veterans are men, the Department of Veterans Affairs has stated that women are the fastest-growing subpopulation within the veteran community. At 11.3 percent, the proportion of women veterans in the total Island Areas was higher than the proportion stateside, which was 7.2 percent in 2010, according to the 2010 American Community Survey. The U.S. Virgin Islands reported the highest proportion of women veterans at 12.7 percent (see Figure 2).

Figure 2.
Proportion of Women Veterans, by Island Area: 2010
(in percent)

Proportion of Women Veterans, by Island Area: 2010

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Island Area Census

The veteran population tends to be older because of the large Vietnam Era, Korean War and World War II cohorts. The majority (66.4 percent) of veterans in the states were over the age of 55 in 2010. Island Area veterans were younger, with more than half under age 55. Roughly 6 percent of Island Area veterans served in the Korean War and World War II, while almost 40 percent served during the Gulf War Era (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. Distribution of Period of Service for the Total Island Areas: 2010
(in percent)

Distribution of Period of Service for the Total Island Areas: 2010 (in percent)

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Island Area Census
Note: Veterans are categorized in their most recent period of service. For example, a veteran who served in both Gulf War I and Gulf War II would be categorized as Gulf War II.

Service members are a mobile population, many moving several times during their time in the military. Once they leave service, veterans may not always move back to their place of birth. About half of all Island Area veterans were born in their island area of residence. However, this varies by island area. For example, 73.5 percent of veterans living in American Samoa in 2010 were born in American Samoa, whereas only 43.7 percent of U.S. Virgin Island veterans were originally from the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 2010, 4,206 veterans living in the four Island Areas were born in the states, while 17,200 stateside veterans were originally from the four Island Areas.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also serves veterans living in the Island Areas. The Island Areas are currently home to eight VA facilities, including cemeteries, veteran centers and medical facilities. Veterans who incurred a disability while serving are of particular concern to the VA. In 2010, roughly 19 percent of veterans living in the four Island Areas had a service-connected disability rating. This proportion was higher than stateside veterans, where approximately 16 percent had a service-connected disability rating.

For additional data on the four Island Areas, please visit the 2010 Census Island Area home page.

For additional data on Island Area and stateside veterans, please visit American FactFinder and view the following datasets: 2010 U.S. Virgin Islands SF, 2010 Guam SF, 2010 Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands SF and 2010 American Samoa SF.

For more information on veterans, please visit our veteran topic page and the American Community Survey page.

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