Their reasons include high crime, high rents, soaring insurance premiums and what many call a lack of leadership, competence, money and progress. In other words: yes, it is still bad down here. But more damning is what many of them describe as a dissipating sense of possibility, a dwindling chance at redemption for a great city that, even before the storm, cried out for great improvement.
“The window of opportunity is closing,” Ms. Larsen said, “before more people like us give up and say it’s too little, too late.”
As a city in flux, New Orleans remains statistically murky, but demographers generally agree that the population replenishment after the storm, as measured by things like the amount of mail sent and employment in main economic sectors, has leveled off. While many poorer residents have moved back to the city, the “brain drain” of professionals that the city was experiencing before the storm appears to have accelerated.
One oft-cited survey by the University of New Orleans found that a third of residents, especially those with graduate degrees, were thinking of leaving within two years.
In battered but proud New Orleans, abandonment is a highly emotional subject, in part because many have made sacrifices to stay and rebuild. To some, leaving now is tantamount to treason.