Long before the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina or the chaos of evacuation, New Orleans’ social infrastructure was failing. News coverage of the overcrowded Superdome and the city’s flooded streets exposed the poverty and vulnerability of many residents, especially African Americans. As New Orleans begins to rebuild, can the city avoid the mistakes of the past, instead creating more effective social support for low-income and minority residents?
Innovation and experience from other U.S. cities offer promising strategies for reducing the risks of poverty and opening up opportunities for economic security and success. This essay is from an Urban Institute collection that addresses employment, affordable housing, public schools, young children’s needs, health care, arts and culture, and vulnerable populations. All these essays assess the challenges facing New Orleans today and for years to come and recommend tested models for making the city’s social infrastructure stronger and more equitable than it was before Katrina.