What is a neighborhood?

The term neighborhood has many meanings and uses. For example, neighborhood can be used to refer to the small group of houses in the immediate vicinity of one’s house or to a larger area with similar housing types and market values.

Neighborhood is also used to describe an area surrounding a local institution patronized by residents, such as a church, school, or social agency. It can also be defined by a political ward or precinct. The concept of neighborhood includes both geographic (place–oriented) and social (people–oriented) components.

These many interpretations lead to a healthy debate on what boundaries are most useful in neighborhood planning efforts. Academically, every field has a different logic for their definition. Neighborhood associations and community groups offer their interpretations. City Planning departments often designate neighborhood boundaries along Census tract boundaries. And, in fact, community residents quite frequently have a very different mental map of their neighborhood than the officially designated neighborhood areas used by planners and policymakers. All definitions are important and meaningful. The question is how one begins to create agreement over the definitions so that the debate focuses not on boundary definitions but on how to make positive changes in the neighborhoods.

Choosing boundaries

Our purpose at The Data Center is to facilitate the strategic use of local data in decision–making. This purpose influenced our decisions on neighborhood statistical area boundaries for the Census 2000 data that is published on our Pre–Katrina Data Center Web Site. To decide on those initial boundaries, our staff researched alternative sets of neighborhood boundaries for Orleans Parish available at that time.

This research included police districts, Community Development Corporation (CDC) boundaries, neighborhood associations, and city planning boundaries. The conclusion we reached was that the neighborhood boundaries then used by City Planning, which were initially developed through a comprehensive citizen planning and research process in the 1970s and 1980s, would be a good starting place in the discussion on common neighborhood statistical area designations in Orleans Parish.

In addition, City Planning boundaries were the only existing neighborhood designations that did not overlap and largely followed Census tract boundaries. Having boundaries that neatly contain Census tracts makes it much more feasible to organize Census data at the neighborhood level.

City Planning’s neighborhoods

In the 1980s, City Planning designated 68 neighborhoods for Orleans Parish. After the 1990 and 2000 Censuses, City Planning created additional neighborhoods based on changes in Census tract boundaries. City Planning no longer designates “official” neighborhood boundaries. However, in 2006, the New Orleans City Planning Commission did compile “unofficial” neighborhoods to form 13 planning districts.

The links below may be useful in understanding these area designations:

Citywide Planning District Maps
www.nola.gov/RESIDENTS/City-Planning/Special-Projects/Neighborhood-Planning-Guide/
Maps of the 13 planning districts and the “unofficial” neighborhoods that comprise each planning district.

New Orleans Neighborhoods: Official Listing and Corresponding 1990 Federal Census Tracts
nutrias.org/facts/noneigh.htm
Historical resource describing which 1990 Census tracts comprise each neighborhood.

The neighborhood statistical areas in this web site

The Data Center started its work with developing publicly available data at a sub–parish level with the initial release of the 2000 neighborhood statistical area data site (now known as the Pre–Katrina Data Center Web Site). We started with the neighborhood designations we received from New Orleans City Planning in 2001 and made some minor adaptations.

With the release of Census 2010 neighborhood statistical area data, The Data Center wanted to be sure that our data users could make comparisons back to 2000, so we compiled data according to the same neighborhood statistical area boundaries used on our Pre–Katrina Web Site with some minor adaptations to follow 2010 Census tract boundaries:

The neighborhood statistical area boundaries used in this web site are not to be confused with neighborhood association boundaries or boundaries that are self–identified by residents.The boundaries on this web site are used for the organization and presentation of data.

Below the neighborhood statistical area level

Our neighborhood statistical area designations are made up of Census tracts, which are made of block groups. You could look at data at these smaller levels, but it’s a bit unwieldy. With 177 Census tracts and 497 block groups in Orleans Parish, for example, it’s easy to see how the 72 neighborhood statistical areas that we’re using can be a useful organizing concept.

Seventy–two neighborhood statistical areas is still a lot of areas to consider, but they’re areas you’ll recognize just by living and working in Orleans Parish.