Census shows EBR’s growth concentrated outside city limits

The city of Baton Rouge’s population has remained stagnant since 2010, while unincorporated areas of East Baton Rouge Parish have gained in population, according to data U.S. Census Bureau released Thursday.

The figures show Baton Rouge lost 67 people — about .03 percent of its total population — between 2010 and 2013, dropping slightly to 229,426 residents.

But the figures also show about a 2.18 percent population growth in the unincorporated portion of the parish during that time, from 154,959 in 2010 to 158,334 in 2013 — much of that likely in the growing area proposed for a new city called St. George.

And Zachary emerged as the state’s third-fastest growing city during that time period with a 6.24 percent increase, from 14,960 in 2010 to 15,894 in 2013.

The Advocate analyzed the new census population estimates for Louisiana cities larger than 10,000 and found New Orleans was by far the fastest-growing city during the time covered — up 10.15 percent, or 34,886 residents, from 2010 to 2013. The total population for New Orleans was 378,715.

On a year-over-year basis, Baton Rouge lost an estimated 580 residents between July, 2012 and July 2013, the figures show. Meanwhile, unincorporated East Baton Rouge Parish gained 940 in that time.

LSU demographer Troy Blanchard said he doesn’t think the city of Baton Rouge’s virtually unchanged population figure gives a true picture of what’s really going on in the parish, and the unincorporated figures and numbers for other cities in the parish appear to back that up.

“You have to be careful when you evaluate a city, there’s some boundary issues to pay attention to,” he said. “People may consider themselves residents of Baton Rouge, but really they live just outside the city limits.”

Supporters of the proposed city of St. George have said they believe incorporation will lead to additional growth in their part of the parish, with the creation of a new school district. They are trying to collect about 18,000 signatures from registered voters in the proposed area to put the issue to a vote and claim to be mere weeks away from it.

In March, the Census Bureau released 2010-2013 population data for metro areas. The March release showed the nine-parish Baton Rouge metro area’s population has been on a modest incline since 2010 and now boasts about 820,000 residents. But much of the growth in the Baton Rouge metro area was in Ascension, West Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes.

While those figures were broken down by parish, the Thursday data are the first to reflect city-by-city population changes for the time period.

The Census Bureau in February released data on county-to-county migration patterns that showed that East Baton Rouge Parish had lost more residents than it gained between 2007 and 2011.

Unlike the city information released this week, the 2007-2011 data also included demographic information showing the parish was gaining residents with graduate and professional degrees and those with annual household incomes in the $100,000 or above range. Mayor-President Kip Holden’s chief administrative officer William Daniel at the time called that information “good news.”

“That’s a reflection of our success in recruiting better paying jobs,” he said at the time.

Daniel wasn’t available for comment Wednesday on the latest round of figures.

New Orleans’ current population was reflected in the parish data in March because the Orleans Parish and the city’s boundaries are the same. The city welcomed about 8,827 new residents between July 2012 and July 2013 — about a 2.39 percent change. Zachary’s year-over-year growth was slightly higher at 2.43 percent.

Blanchard said he suspects New Orleans’ growth — which still hasn’t brought it back to pre-Hurricane Katrina levels — is due to economic development efforts and an emphasis on the creative market.

“I think it’s trying to capture some of the same essence that Austin, Texas, has,” he said.

Louisiana’s fastest-growing cities still pale in comparison to some cities in the state’s neighbor to the West, including those around Austin.

The South and West as regions dominated the list of fastest-growing municipalities between 2012 and 2013, claiming all top 15 spots — seven of them in Texas, according to the Census Bureau.

Those included three cities near Austin — San Marcos, Cedar Park and Georgetown, as well as Dallas-suburbs Frisco and McKinny, Texas; Houston-suburb Pearland, Texas; and Odessa in west Texas.

Blanchard said Texas’s growth has been the product of a combination of economic development and immigration.

“Economic development makes Texas an attractive place to live, and it’s an attractive immigrant location, as well,” he said. “Texas is situated well for a lot of these factors.”

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of city-parish government, follow our City Hall blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/cityhallbuzz .