Demographics of Louisiana
As of July 2005 (prior to the landfall of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita), Louisiana has an estimated population of 4,523,628, which is an increase of 16,943, or 0.4%, from the prior year and an increase of 54,670, or 1.2%, since 2000. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 129,889 people (that is 350,818 births minus 220,929 deaths) and a decrease due to net migration of 69,373 people out of the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 20,174 people, and migration within the country produced a net loss of 89,547 people. The population density of the state is 104.9 people per square mile.
Racial and ancestral groups
Cajun and Creole
Cajuns and Creoles of French ancestry are dominant in much of the southern part of the state. Louisiana Cajuns are the descendants of French-speaking Acadians from colonial French Acadia, which are now the present-day Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Cajuns remained isolated in the swamps of South Louisiana well into the 20th century. During the early part of the 20th century, attempts were made to suppress Cajun culture by measures such as forbidding the use of the Cajun French language in schools.
The Creole people of Louisiana are split into two racial divisions. Créole was the term first given to French settlers born in Louisiana when it was a colony of France. In Spanish the term for natives was criollo. Given the immigration and settlement patterns, white Creoles are predominantly of French and Spanish ancestry. As the slave population grew in Louisiana, there were also enslaved blacks who could be called Creoles, in the sense of having been born in the colony.
The special meaning of Louisiana Creole, however, is associated with free people of color (gens de couleur libres), which was generally a third class of mixed-race people who were concentrated in southern Louisiana and New Orleans. This group was formed under French and Spanish rule, made up at first of descendants from relationships between colonial men and enslaved women, mostly African. As time went on, colonial men chose companions who were often women of color, or mixed-race. Often the men would free their companions and children if still enslaved. The arrangements were formalized in New Orleans as plaçage, often associated with property settlements for the young women and education for their children, or at least for sons. Creoles who were free people of color during French and Spanish rule formed a distinct class – many were educated and became wealthy property owners or artisans, and they were politically active. Often these mixed-race Creoles married only among themselves. They were a distinct group between French and Spanish descendants, and the mass of enslaved Africans.
After the Haitian Revolution, the class of free people of color in New Orleans and Louisiana was increased by French-speaking refugees and immigrants from Haiti. At the same time, French-speaking whites entered the city, some bringing slaves with them, who in Haiti were mostly African natives. In 1809, nearly 10,000 refugees from Saint-Domingue arrived from Cuba, where they had first fled, to settle en masse in New Orleans. They doubled that city’s population and helped preserve its French language and culture for several generations.
Creoles of color today are frequently racially mixed, being of African, French (and/or Spanish) and Native American heritage. Their families have historically adhered to the French or Creole-speaking environment and culture. The separate status of Creoles of color was diminished after the Louisiana Purchase, and even more so after the American Civil War. Those Creoles who had been free for generations before the Civil War lost some of their legal and social standing.
Louisiana's population has the sixth largest proportion of black Americans (28% according to 2010 census) in the United States.
Official census statistics do not distinguish among people of African ancestry. Consequently, no distinction is made between those in Louisiana of English-speaking heritage and those of French-speaking heritage.
Creoles of color, multiracial Americans in Louisiana with French, African, and Native American ancestry, predominate in the southeast, central, and northern parts of the state, particularly those parishes along the Mississippi River valley.
Whites of Southern U.S. background predominate in northern Louisiana. These people are predominantly of English, Huguenot French, Welsh, and Scots Irish backgrounds, and share a common, mostly Protestant culture with Americans of neighboring states.
Before the Louisiana Purchase, some German families had settled in a rural area along the lower Mississippi valley, then known as the German Coast. They assimilated into Cajun and Creole communities.
In 1840 New Orleans was the third largest and most wealthy city in the nation and the largest city in the South. Its bustling port and trade economy attracted numerous Irish, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and German immigrants, of which the first four groups were totally Catholic, with some Germans also being Catholic, thus adding to the Catholic culture in southern Louisiana. New Orleans is also home to sizable Dutch, Greek and Polish communities, and Jewish populations of various nationalities. More than 10,000 Maltese were reported to come to Louisiana in the early 20th century. Croatians are credited with developing the state's commercial oyster industry.
According to the 2000 census, people of Hispanic origin made up 2.4% of the state's population. By 2005, this proportion had increased to an estimated 4 percent of the state's population, and by 2010, the percentage increased to 5.6%. The state has attracted an influx of immigrants from various countries of Latin America, such as Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. New Orleans has one of the largest Honduran American communities in the USA.
The New Orleans metro area has the third largest Honduran American community in the US. Older Cuban American and Dominican American communities are also present in the New Orleans area, sometimes dating back to the 1920s and even as early as the 1880s, although most of them are immigrants and in the case of Cubans, being anti-Castro regime political refugees.
In 1763, after the signing of the Treaty of Fontainebleau at the end of the Seven Years War, Louisiana was ruled by the Spanish empire for the next 36 years. During this time some Spanish peoples, especially Canary Islanders settled in the area down river from New Orleans, now St. Bernard Parish, and in other parts of the Southeast of the state. These would form the basis of Louisiana's Isleño population.
In 2006, it was estimated that 100,209 people of Asian descent (East Asian, South Asian and other Asian) live in Louisiana.
The earliest Asians to settle in the region were Filipinos, who were originally sailors on the Spanish galleon route from the Philippines to Mexico. The "Manilamen" may have arrived in Southeast Louisiana as early as the mid-1760s, perhaps the earliest Asians to settle in North America, when Louisiana came under Spanish colonial rule. The Filipinos were attracted to the bayous of Louisiana because of its resemblance to the mangrove swamps of Manila Bay. They became shrimpers and fishermen, and they developed a community at St. Malo in modern St. Bernard Parish. The Filipinos continued arriving in Louisiana until the Mexican Revolution in 1815 ended the galleon trade route. Most of the Manillamen intermarried into the neighboring Isleño population and disappeared from history. Modern Filipinos began settling in Louisiana during the Twentieth Century, after the annexation of the Philippines by the United States.
The first significant wave of Chinese migration took place during Reconstruction after the American Civil War. Local planters imported Cantonese contract workers from Cuba and California as a low-cost substitute for slave labor. By 1870, the Chinese had begun migrating from the plantations to the cities, especially New Orleans, forming a Chinatown that existed from the 1880s until its removal by WPA development in 1937. The Chinese dominated the city's laundry industry during this period, as they had in other American cities. But by the 1940s, the younger generation of American-born Chinese were already entering college and abandoning the laundry industry.
Subsequent waves of immigration have brought many Chinese from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mainland China, as well as Indians, Middle Easterners, Koreans, Japanese, Southeast Asians, and other Asians, to New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and other cities in the state. The Vietnamese began migrating to the southern part of the state and the Gulf Coast region after the Fall of Saigon in 1975. Since then, the Vietnamese have become the largest Asian population in the state. The Vietnamese have also come to dominate the fishing and shrimping industry in Southeast Louisiana.
Several Asians have held high office in Louisiana. Harry Lee, a Chinese American, was a federal judge, candidate for governor, and sheriff of Jefferson Parish, an office he held for 27 years, from 1979 until his death in 2007. The first Vietnamese American to be elected to Congress was Joseph Cao of New Orleans, in 2008. In 2007, former congressman Bobby Jindal of Baton Rouge was elected governor of Louisiana, the first Indian American to be elected governor of any state.
Louisiana has a unique linguistic culture, owing to its French and Spanish heritage. According to the 2000 census, among persons five years old and older, 90.8% of Louisiana residents speak only English (99% total speak English) and 4.7% speak French at home (7% total speak French). Other minority languages are Spanish, which is spoken by 2.5% of the population; Vietnamese, by 1.2%; and German, by 0.2%. Although state law recognizes the usage of English and French in certain circumstances, the Louisiana State Constitution does not declare any "de jure official language or languages". Currently the "de facto administrative languages" of the Louisiana State Government are English and French.
There are several unique dialects of French, Creole, and English spoken in Louisiana. There are two unique dialects of the French language: Cajun French (predominant after the Great Upheaval of Acadians from Canada) and Colonial French. For the Creole language, there is Louisiana Creole French. There are also two unique dialects of the English language: Cajun English, a French-influenced variety of English, and what is informally known as Yat, which resembles the New York City dialect, particularly that of historical Brooklyn, as both accents were influenced by large communities of immigrant Irish and Italian, but the Yat dialect was also influenced by French and Spanish.
Colonial French was the predominant language of Louisiana during the French colonial period and was spoken primarily by the white settlers; the black/creole population spoke mostly creole. Cajun French was only introduced in Louisiana after the Great Upheaval of Acadians from Canada during 1710-1763. The Cajun people and culture (hence the Cajun language as well) did not appear immediately but was rather a slow evolution from the original Acadian culture with influences from local cultures. English and its associated dialects became predominant only after the Louisiana Purchase and even then it still retained some French influences as seen with Cajun English. Cajun French and Colonial French have somewhat merged since English took over.
Like other Southern states, the population of Louisiana is made up of numerous Protestant denominations, comprising 60% of the state's adult population. Protestants are concentrated in the northern and central parts of the state and in the northern tier of the Florida Parishes. Because of French and Spanish heritage, whose descendants are Cajun and French Creole, and later Irish, Italian, Portuguese and German immigrants, there is also a large Roman Catholic population, particularly in the southern part of the state.
Since French Creoles were the first settlers, planters and leaders of the territory, they have traditionally been well represented in politics. For instance, most of the early governors were French Creole Catholics. Although nowadays constituting only a plurality but not a majority of Louisiana's population, Catholics have continued to be influential in state politics. As of 2008[update] both Senators and the Governor were Catholic. The high proportion and influence of the Catholic population makes Louisiana distinct among Southern states.
Current religious affiliations of the people of Louisiana:
- Christian: 90%
- Other Religions: 2%
- Non-religious (unaffiliated): 8%
Jewish communities exist in the state's larger cities, notably Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The most significant of these is the Jewish community of the New Orleans area, with a pre-Katrina population of about 12,000. The presence of a significant Jewish community well established by the early 20th century also made Louisiana unusual among Southern states, although South Carolina and Virginia also had influential populations in some of their major cities from the 18th and 19th centuries. Prominent Jews in Louisiana's political leadership have included Whig (later Democrat) Judah P. Benjamin (1811–1884), who represented Louisiana in the U.S. Senate prior to the American Civil War and then became the Confederate Secretary of State; Democrat Adolph Meyer (1842–1908), Confederate Army officer who represented the state in the U.S. House from 1891 until his death in 1908; and Republican Secretary of State Jay Dardenne (1954–).
- Resident Population Data. "Resident Population Data - 2010 Census". 2010.census.gov. Retrieved 2012-02-18.
- "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011" (CSV). 2011 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. December 2011. Retrieved December 21, 2011.
- 2010 Census Data. "2010 Census Data - 2010 Census". 2010.census.gov. Retrieved 2012-02-18.
- "Population and Population Centers by State – 2000". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-12-05.
- "MLA Language Map Data Center".
- "The Cajuns and The Creoles"
- Tidwell, Michael. Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast. Vintage Departures: New York, 2003 ISBN 978-0-375-42076-4.
- "In Congo Square: Colonial New Orleans", The Nation, 2008-12-10.
- Haitians, Center for Cultural & Eco-Tourism, University of Louisiana. Retrieved 2010-02-16.
- "Spill Hurts Gulf Village of Croatian Oystermen". The Wall Street Journal. May 4, 2010
- Espina, Marina (1988). Filipinos of Louisiana. A.F. Laborde & Sons.
- Cohen, Lucy (1984). Chinese in the Post-Civil War South. LSU Press.
- Campanella, Richard (Fall 2007). "Chinatown New Orleans". Louisiana Cultural Vistas.
- Statistics of languages spoken in Louisiana  Retrieved on June 18, 2008.
- Louisiana State Constitution of 1974  Retrieved on June 18, 2008.
- "The Association of Religion Data Archives | Maps & Reports". Thearda.com. Retrieved 2012-02-18.
- For Louisiana's position in a larger religious context, see Bible Belt.
- "Louisiana". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- Other Southern states—such as Maryland and Texas—have longstanding indigenous Catholic populations, and Florida's largely Catholic population of Cuban emigres has been influential since the 1960s. Yet, Louisiana is still unusual or exceptional in its extent of aboriginal Catholic settlement and influence. Among states in the Deep South (discounting Florida's Panhandle and much of Texas) the historic role of Catholicism in Louisiana is unparalleled and unique. Among the states of the Union, Louisiana's unique use of the term parish (French la parouche or "la paroisse") for county is rooted in the pre-statehood role of Catholic church parishes in the administration of government.
- Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
- Isaacs, Ronald H. The Jewish Information Source Book: A Dictionary and Almanac, Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, Inc., 1993. p. 202.