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This interactive website marks the fourth in a series of data guides on opportunity youth published by the Cowen Institute at Tulane University since 2012. Previous reports have served as reference guides to inform decisions for nonprofits, service providers, elected leadership, and other community stakeholders. The Cowen Institute’s 2016 report, No Longer Invisible: Opportunity Youth in New Orleans, offered the first look at opportunity youth exclusively in Orleans Parish. Previous reports had analyzed opportunity youth in the the New Orleans Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) used by the U.S. Census, inclusive of nine additional parishes.


This publication honors our commitment to offering high-quality research-based, publications on issues important to the long-term success and education of youth in New Orleans. The data featured in this report is not publicly available and was purchased from the U.S. Census Bureau in 2017. It is based on 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year estimates. The Cowen Institute targeted this data set so that, for the first time, we could examine opportunity youth populations in New Orleans by zip code.


The goal of Measuring Opportunity in New Orleans is to offer new insights into the geographic distribution of youth, alongside a comparison to both employment opportunities and public transportation access. To that end, we have included data from the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) and the New Orleans Regional Transportation Association (NORTA).



Who are Opportunity Youth?

Opportunity youth is a term used to refer to youth who are aged 16-24 who are neither in school or employed. President Barack Obama created the White House Council for Community Solutions in December 2010. The Council released a 2012 report, "Community Solutions for Opportunity Youth" that used the term to reference the potential of the young people within the population, and the shared responsibility within our communities. As we have written in previous reports, this is an overly generic term that does not represent the nuanced differences and unique circumstances among youth who fall into this demographic category. However, we use it in our reports because it is the most commonly employed, and thus comparable, term for this population by practitioners and academics.

Population Demographics

Of the estimated 48,375 16-24 year-olds in New Orleans, approximately 7,610 (16 percent) are disconnected from both employment and the educational system according to the 2011 – 2015 community survey. Our 2016 report found that there were 6,820 opportunity youth in Orleans Parish for 2014. While this new figure may appear to be significantly higher at first glance, it reflects an average estimate across five years instead of one. Compared to citywide demographics, opportunity youth are also more likely to be Black or African American than the overall youth population. Sixty-five percent of the general youth population in New Orleans identifies as Black or African American, while 87 percent of opportunity youth identify as the same. An individual from the overall youth population is more than three times likely to be white, and over twice as likely to be Hispanic or Latino, than an individual who is an opportunity youth. Opportunity youth are also much more likely to be on the older end of the 16-24 age spectrum, with 82 percent aged 20 years or older compared to 49 percent in the general youth population. Given that opportunity youth are much older on average, it may not be surprising that they are much more likely to have a high school diploma or equivalency at 43 percent compared to 23 percent in the comparable youth population. This is important to note; the opportunity youth population in New Orleans is composed of a diverse population, and they have a variety of different needs. Fifty-four percent of youth in the general population have worked in the last 12 months compared to 28 percent of opportunity youth. Over half of opportunity youth, have either not worked within the past five years or have never worked at all. Opportunity youth in New Orleans are more likely to have been born in New Orleans or Louisiana, and speak only English, as compared to the general population of local youth. While 88 percent of the 16-24 year olds in New Orleans were born in the U.S., the percentage of opportunity youth born locally is considerably higher at 94 percent. Nearly 95 percent of opportunity youth speak only English compared to 91 percent of total youth. 16 percent of 16-24 year-old youth in New Orleans are disconnected.
 Opportunity youth are more likely to identify as Black or African American (87 percent), than the general youth population (65 percent).
 Opportunity youth are nearly twice as likely to have a disability (21 percent) than the general youth population (9 percent).
 Over half of the opportunity youth population have not worked within the past five years, or have never worked at all.

Established in 2014, Earn and Learn Career Pathways is a yearlong program that connects apprentices with high-demand careers as well as coaching, intensive skills training, and college credit-bearing coursework. We leverage our relationship with Tulane University as a major anchor institution and resource hub, and we continue to partner with other businesses in the information technology, creative digital media, and skilled crafts fields, where apprentices can engage in on-the-job training and paid career opportunities. Because we’re diversifying and growing a pipeline of local talent, it’s a win for employers, too. Since 2014, we’ve supported 65 youth as they have jumpstarted their careers.


The interactive tool below is designed to highlight the demographic differences between the opportunity youth population and the general youth population. By default, Orleans Parish is selected, but additional parishes can be selected, or (All) for the New Orleans-Metairie MSA. The data are sorted by question category and response field. Youth populations are overlayed. An orange area on the chart indicates a higher representation of opportunity youth than the general population, and a blue area on the chart represents a higher representation of the general population. Navy blue areas represent shared representation. For example, this chart shows that the percentage of 16-19 year-olds is much higher in the general youth population, and the percentage of 20-24 year-olds is higher in the opportunity youth population. The calculations for this tool are based on responses, not total population estimates. For example, this tool shows that 90.22 percent of the opportunity youth population identifies as Black or African American, but the previous estimate indicates 87 percent. Small differences are to be expected due to the margin of error in the sampling.

Where Do Opportunity Youth Live?

Though opportunity youth live all over New Orleans, unsurprisingly, there are certain areas with higher concentrations of opportunity youth than others. Nestled between the Treme, the French Quarter, and the Central Business District (CBD), the 70112 Zip Code Tabulation Area (ZCTA) has the lowest absolute estimates of opportunity youth, with just 45 total, and the lowest relative percentage of opportunity youth (2 – 13 percent of the youth population) in the city. To the west, the 70119 zip code contains the Mid-City and Fauborg St. John neighborhoods. This single zip code features both the highest absolute estimate of OY (1,270) and the highest relative percentage (27 – 33 percent of the youth population) in the city. The remainder of zip codes fall somewhere in between these values.


The Gentilly neighborhood straddles the 70122 and 70126 zip codes, and despite being approximately twice the landmass of the Lakeview neighborhood, which is in the 70124 zip code, it contains over ten times the opportunity youth population. The New Orleans East neighborhood covers the greatest expanse of land in New Orleans and spans three zip codes that together include the largest opportunity population of any neighborhood in the city.



Opportunity youth populations are populated by zip code, and displayed over a map of New Orleans. A darker shade indicates a higher percentage of opportunity youth compared to the corresponding 16-24 year old population. The numbers indicate the estimate of Opportunity Youth within each zip code. Move your mouse over a zip code area for additional details, which include the following fields:

OY Est - The raw estimate of opportunity youth within a particular zip code

OY Est Pct - The estimated opportunity youth compared to the general youth population, expressed as a percentage.

OY Range - The estimate of opportunity youth within a zip code given the margin of error from the census data. Smaller opportunity youth populations will have a greater margin of error, which will result in a wider range.

Where Are the Job Opportunities?

Data about the education and employment opportunities available in the Greater New Orleans area were sourced from the US Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) application using Origin-Destination Employment Statistics (LODES). These data are sourced from state unemployment records reported to the federal government and are calculated quarterly and published on an annual basis. The data in this report represent the 2014 year.


While these employment figures are not estimates, they are known to under-represent total employment by approximately 15 percent since the reporting excludes some federal and military workers, and those not subject to unemployment insurance such as self-employed workers and sole proprietors. It is important to note that employment rates are used as a proxy for opportunity, and that this data does not consider industry demand or potential for industry growth.


Orleans Parish and Jefferson Parish offer the most opportunities overall, followed by St. Tammany Parish. Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. James, and St. John the Baptist Parishes have the fewest opportunities.


The Accommodation and Food Services industry presents the largest number of available jobs in Orleans Parish, with nearly 36,000 employed, with Health Care and Social Assistance (23,102) and Educational Services (23,446).


Jefferson Parishes employs a similar number in the Health Care industry (31,965), but also has nearly twice as many opportunities in Retail Trade (30,942) as in New Orleans (13,873).


This tool shows the relative size of an industry across parishes. You can select one or multiple industries, and one or multiple parishes. Each selected industry is shown on the left-hand side. Move your mouse over one of the bubbles for more details on the industry.

Job Opportunities in New Orleans

Opportunities are not distributed evenly within Orleans Parish, nor do the total number of jobs align neatly with where the highest rates of opportunity youth reside. The 70112 zip code, which is part of the New Orleans Central Business District (CBD), contains the second greatest number of opportunities, but has the lowest number of opportunity youth. The zip code with the most jobs is 70130, which includes the Lower Garden District and the CBD from Carondelet St. to the river. The 70128 zip code is a residential section of New Orleans East, and has the lowest number of jobs, but an average rate of opportunity youth population.

Mapping Opportunities


This tool provides the most comprehensive look at job opportunities in the New Orleans-Metairie MSA, and features several configurable options. You can choose to view jobs by the total number of employees, jobs by worker education, worker age, by industry, or by earnings. By default, only Orleans Parish is selected, but you can select additional parishes to include. Move your mouse over a zip code for additional details. The heat map gradient will automatically adjust based on your selection.

Accessibility of Opportunities

Public transportation in New Orleans is operated by the Regional Transit Authority (NORTA), and is the largest public transit agency in Louisiana. RTA manages 30 bus routes and five streetcar routes, and served over 18 million riders in 2016. RTA also operates a ferry that connects the East Bank and West Bank of New Orleans. (


Standard fares for one-way trips on either the streetcar or bus are $1.25, with reduced fares available for senior citizens and individuals with disabilities. A monthly pass can be purchased for $55 that is valid for unlimited trips on all RTA buses and streetcars.


Neighboring parishes offer separate public transit systems, so while it is possible to commute via public transit to another parish, separate tickets must be purchased from each transit operator. Jefferson Parish operates Jefferson Express Transit (JeT), and St. Bernard Parish offers St. Bernard Parish Rapid Urban Transit (SBURT). This creates additional difficulty for youth within the city seeking opportunity in the surrounding areas, as well as challenges for youth in suburban areas to access areas with the greatest job density.



How well does the system work?

The difference in accessibility of opportunities is notable. Ride New Orleans, a local non-profit advocate for improved transportation options, estimates that an individual access to an automobile can reach an estimated 98 percent of job opportunities with 60 minutes. With a combination of walking and public transportation, the same individual can only reach 11 percent of opportunities within 30 minutes, and only 44 percent of opportunities in 60 minutes. Individuals without an automobile can access less than half of the same job opportunities within the city, and as the map shows below, some areas have very low levels of accessibility.














Opportunity accessibility greatly depends on neighborhood. The CBD contains the most opportunities within the city, and also features a number of transportation options. Mid City, the Lower Garden District, and the French Quarter are all highly accessible areas. Fewer opportunities exist in the Lakeview neighborhood, which is served by only two bus routes. Broadmoor, Hollygrove, and the Uptown area surrounding Tulane University are also lightly served.


The following interactive tool was developed based on data from the Access Across America project at the University of Minnesota. In 2013, this series began measuring accessibility to jobs across several modes of transportation in major metropolitan areas. The map below is shaded based on the number of jobs accessible within 30 minutes with a combination of walking and available public transportation during typical commute times.


  1. New Orleans should invest more in public transportation. The New Orleans East neighborhood has some of the greatest need based on youth population, but the least access to the large number of job opportunities in the central business district. Most riders in Algiers face an estimated 50-60 minute transit/walking time in order to access jobs in the CBD according to RideNOLA.

  2. Improve regional connectivity between Orleans Parish and Jefferson Parish. While New Orleans offers the highest number of jobs, Jefferson Parish offers the second greatest number in the region. There are few connections between the transit system, and presently no transfer fare exists. Public transportation commuters must purchase both fares independently.

  3. Employers should provide more transportation for employees or subsidize transportation in areas with high employment opportunities, but little access to public transportation.


         For more information regarding public transportation in New Orleans, please visit the websites of NORTA and RideNOLA.

This report was made possible through generous support by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

†Our previous report from 2016, No Longer Invisible: Reconnecting Opportunity Youth in New Orleans, was developed based on data from the 2014 American Community Survey. Since our most recent work includes 5-year estimates for 2011-2015, direct comparisons between the reports should be avoided -- the underlying data capture estimates for different years. Decennial (every ten years) census figures reflect actual counts of individuals. In between those counts, the U.S. Census Bureau surveys smaller samples and creates estimates. Figures in this report are estimates. The next census will occur in 2020.


  1. U.S. Census Bureau. 5-Year (2011-15) Dataset provided by the Data Products Coordination Branch, American Community Survey Office

  2. U.S. Census Bureau. (2015). LEHD Origin-Destination Employment Statistics (2002-2015) [computer file]. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau, Longitudinal-Employer Household Dynamics Program, LODES 7.3

  3. RTA GTFS Data Feed. (2017) Provided upon request from NORTA.

  4. The State of Transit. (2016) Ride New Orleans.

    5.  Access Across America. (2014). University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies.