In just 20 years, St. Tammany Parish may have more residents than East Baton Rouge.
New official state projections indicate the populations of Livingston, Ascension and St. Tammany parishes are expected to more than double by 2030.
If predictions bear true, St. Tammany could be home to 459,160 people — up from 219,870 the year before Katrina. Livingston’s population is projected to climb to 242,780 — up from 109,030 in 2005. And Ascension could expect 196,140 residents — up from 90,450 before the storms. Meanwhile, the population of East Baton Rouge Parish is projected to reach a high of 433,700 in 2010 before losing 12,200 people by 2030.
Dr. Troy Blanchard, an associate professor of sociology at LSU who produced the projections, says the numbers are based on birth, death and migration trends in those parishes from 2000 to 2005, using the 2000 Census and 2005 Census estimates.
However, he cautions that when looking at projections this far out, birth and death rates typically remain fairly constant, but migration patterns — which can be affected by everything from hurricanes to the economy — are unpredictable and could significantly alter the numbers.
“What we’re saying is that if these measurements stay exactly the same as they were during that particular period, this is what will happen,” Blanchard says. “Right now, our best guess at what will happen in the future is what has happened in the past.”
State demographer Karen Paterson agrees. “The biggest variable and unknown is the migration assumption,” she says. “Births and death rates don’t change dramatically, but migration is harder to pin down. Projections are always more accurate the closer they are to the time they were made; further out, things can change.”
The state projections indicate that from 2005 to 2010, the top five fastest-growing parishes are Ascension, Livingston, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and St. John the Baptist. Between 2010 and 2020, Livingston, St. Tammany, Ascension, St. John the Baptist and Plaquemines likely will enjoy the biggest growth. Another Census is scheduled for 2010.
Blanchard says much of the surge in the suburban parishes might be attributed to families leaving urban areas in search of better public schools and newer homes. “What happened in a lot of metro areas in the 1970s is happening in Baton Rouge now,” he says. “It’s a typical pattern.”
State agencies use the projections to plan things like new programs, transportation and schools. Businesses also consider them in selecting optimum locations. To see the state’s projections for each parish, click here.