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Friday, December 30, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Statistics

The political fingerpointing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was a new low point in American politics. Somehow the hurricane was President Bush's fault, and his administration's "racism" was blamed for the deaths of 10,0000 poor black people. Today Knight Ridder published a statistical analysis of the approximately 1,100 actual deaths from Katrina. The results show that "everything we know is wrong" about the victims:
For example, a comparison of locations where 874 bodies were recovered with U.S. census tract data indicates that the victims weren't disproportionately poor. Another database of 486 Katrina victims from Orleans and St. Bernard parishes, compiled by Knight Ridder, suggests they also weren't disproportionately African American.

Both sets of data are incomplete; Louisiana state officials have released no comprehensive list of the dead. Still, they provide the most comprehensive information available to date about who paid the ultimate price in the storm.
The one group that was disproportionately affected by the storm appears to have been older adults. People 60 and older account for only about 15 percent of the population in the New Orleans area, but the Knight Ridder database found that 74 percent of the dead were 60 or older. Nearly half were older than 75. Many of those were at nursing homes and hospitals, where nearly 20 percent of the victims were recovered.

Lack of transportation was assumed to be a key reason that many people stayed behind and died, but at many addresses where the dead were found, their cars remained in their driveways, flood-ruined symbols of fatal miscalculation.
For some reason, I can't imagine why, this story is not a big one on the online news sites. I had to search on a specific phrase from the article from the Lincoln Journal Star to find it, and there was only the hit above from the Charlotte Observer. Of course stories about journalists completely missing the truth about the story of the year are not as interesting to the public as stories that might damage the President, so there's no bias here.

No doubt the story will gain wider play as soon as someone realizes that what the statistics really show is that George Bush hates old people, not blacks and the poor as we previously believed.

Meanwhile, Al Sharpton and Charles Rangel called a press conference in New York to appologize to the President and the public for needlessly, falsely interjecting racial politics into a natural disaster. OK, we made that up, but read the rest of the statistical analysis.