Changes in household makeup and growth of Asian populations in metro New Orleans

Allison Plyer

Published: Mar 11, 2024

The once-every-ten-year Census provides unique insights into important long-term demographic changes in the metro area. The population is shifting north and west, and an increasing number of people live alone. The Vietnamese population has more than doubled since 1980 and has also shifted toward Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes. From 1980 to 2010, homeownership increased across the metro but has since declined in every parish except St. Charles. In New Orleans, the number of vacant housing units that are used only seasonally has skyrocketed. These trends point to new demographic realities that leaders may need to consider when planning for housing and other services.

The total population of metro New Orleans is smaller than 50 years ago and is shifting north and west within the metro. In contrast, the number of households has grown 13 percent.

Contrary to national trends, the total population of the New Orleans metro, at 1.27 million, is smaller than it was in 1980 when it was 1.3 million. During the same period, the U.S. population increased by two thirds.

Despite this lack of growth, the metro population has grown on the north shore and in most river parishes, while declining substantially in Orleans and St. Bernard parishes.

At the same time, the average household size has shrunk, such that, despite a smaller total population, the number of households has grown across the metro from 453,000 in 1980 to 512,000 in 2020. Notably, Jefferson and Plaquemines both have more households now than in 1980, despite losing total population. And the growth in households on the north shore and river parishes has significantly outstripped their population growth.

Across metro New Orleans — as across the nation — the share of households with children has shrunk, while the share of individuals living alone has grown.

Households are growing faster than the total population because household make-up has dramatically changed over the last 50 years. The share of U.S. households that have children has fallen from 40 percent in 1980 to 30 percent in 2020, while the share of single-person households has grown from 23 percent to 28 percent. Similarly, across metro New Orleans, the share of households with children shrank from 43 percent in 1980 to 30 percent in 2020, while the share of individuals living alone spiked from 24 percent to 31 percent.

The graphic below depicts the rapid increase in individuals living alone since 1980 in each parish. Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures caused a notable loss of single-person households in Orleans, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines parishes, but even these parishes have since experienced substantial growth in individuals living alone. Today, roughly 1 in 5 households in Plaquemines and St. Charles parishes are individuals living alone. At least 1 in 4 households in St. Tammany, St. John, and St. James parishes are individuals living alone. In Jefferson and Orleans parishes, roughly 1 in 3 households are individuals living alone. The majority of these individuals living alone are not elderly, but are of working age.

The progression of the baby boomers past retirement age has swelled the ranks of the 65 and older population.

The majority of baby boomers have now reached 65 years old and have dramatically changed the age distribution of the U.S. and metro New Orleans. Individuals aged 65 and older now represent 17 percent of all residents of metro New Orleans. Meanwhile, the decline in birth rates means that children are only 22 percent of the metro population, down from 31 percent in 1980.

While all parishes in the metro have experienced a substantial increase in the share of their population that is 65 and older, Jefferson, St. James, and St. Tammany have disproportionate shares at roughly 18 percent each.

Single-parent households are a growing phenomenon nationally — as well as locally — and the New Orleans metro has larger shares of single-parent households than the national average.

The share of households with children that live with a single parent has risen across the nation from 18 percent in 1980 to 30 percent in 2020, and across the metro it has risen more steeply from 23 percent to 38 percent. Plaquemines, St. Charles, and St. Tammany have relatively smaller shares of single-parent households between 28 and 31 percent. St. James and Jefferson parishes have between 33 and 40 percent single-parent households. In St. John the Baptist Parish 39 percent are single-parent households, and in St. Bernard Parish 42 percent are single-parent headed households. In Orleans Parish, 48 percent of households with children are single-parent headed.

The number of Vietnamese in metro New Orleans has more than doubled since 1980. Though smaller, Asian Indian, Chinese, and Filipino populations locally have grown even more rapidly.

Vietnamese is the largest Asian subgroup across metro New Orleans. While many Vietnamese individuals initially settled in New Orleans, many have moved to Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes. Jefferson Parish now has nearly twice as many Vietnamese residents as Orleans Parish.

The number of Asian Indian, Chinese, and Filipino residents in metro New Orleans has quadrupled since 1980. Today there are nearly 7,000 Filipino residents, 6,500 Chinese residents, and over 5,000 Asian Indian residents in the metro area. Jefferson, Orleans, and St. Tammany parishes boast the largest number of each. As depicted in the chart below, the Vietnamese population is by far the largest Asian subgroup in both Jefferson and Orleans parishes, while in St. Tammany, the Asian population consists of a more balanced mix of several Asian subgroups.

To see 2020 Census estimates of Asian subgroups (including Japanese and Korean), and Hispanic subgroups (including Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Honduran, Guatemalan, Nicaraguan, and Dominican) in all eight parishes, see the downloadable spreadsheet accompanying this report. To see annual updates of Hispanic subgroups in Orleans, Metro New Orleans, and the U.S. see “Who Lives in New Orleans and Metro Parishes Now?”

From 1980 to 2010, homeownership increased across metro New Orleans, but has since declined in every parish except St. Charles. Meanwhile, an increasing number of housing units are being used only seasonally.

From 1980 to 2010, the U.S. homeownership rate grew slightly from 64 percent to 65 percent. Over these two decades, the homeownership rate in the metro area jumped from 56 percent to 64 percent. Since 2010, the national homeownership rate fell from 65 to 63 percent, and the homeownership rate in the New Orleans metro also fell from 64 to 61 percent. Today, St. James Parish has the highest homeownership rate at 81 percent, followed by St. John and St. Tammany at 77 percent. Orleans Parish has the lowest homeownership rate at 45 percent.

The share of housing units that are used only seasonally or occasionally and are often vacant has increased across the metro area to 1.6 percent of all housing units — a total of 9,398 housing units. While seasonal use housing has declined substantially in Plaquemines and St. Tammany since 1980, the number in New Orleans has nearly quadrupled.

Limitations of the 2020 Census

The once-every-ten-year census persistently undercounts several key groups. The Census Bureau found that renters were undercounted by 1.48 percent, while homeowners were overcounted by 0.43 percent in the 2020 Census. Non-Hispanic White individuals were overcounted by 1.64 percent, Black individuals were undercounted by 3.3 percent, and Hispanic individuals were undercounted by 4.99 percent.1 Young children (0–4 years of age) were undercounted by about 5 percent.2 Undercounts of these groups were documented in the 1990, 2000, and 2010 decennial censuses as well.3

In addition to the limitations described above, the data used in the analysis in this brief contains error or “noise” injected to adhere to federal laws that require the Census Bureau to protect the confidentiality of respondents. For the first time in 2020, they utilized a technique called Differential Privacy to protect the data. Due to the Census Bureau’s new Differential Privacy approach, the detailed race estimates for 2020 are noisier and less comparable to other census products. The Census Bureau recommends against aggregating estimates from this file across race breakdowns and across geographies. The Bureau did not provide this data for Metropolitan Statistical Areas. So, against the recommendation of the Census Bureau, we added the individual parish numbers to get racial estimates for the metro area in this brief and the accompanying spreadsheet.

1“Census Bureau Releases Estimates of Undercount and Overcount in the 2020 Census,” U.S. Census Bureau, March 10, 2022,

2“Despite Efforts, Census Undercount of Young Children Persists” U.S. Census Bureau, March 10, 2022,

3Barry Edmonston, “The Undercount in the 2000 Census,” Population Reference Bureau, May 2002,

Linda Jacobsen, “How Accurate Was the 2020 Census- and Why Should You Care?” Population Reference Bureau, February 10, 2023