Ten years have passed since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and gave the world a glimpse of the gross injustices under the surface of the Crescent City’s facade. Katrina thrust issues of environmental justice, socioeconomic stratification, and racial segregation into the national spotlight, yet these detrimental processes have been simmering and compounding since the nineteenth century. We cannot understand the urban development of the United States without understanding the conditions that molded cities, neighborhoods, and people. Disease and mortality were central to this process.
The New Orleans Mortality Project focuses on the city in the Gilded Age (1877-1915) to examine how health, environment, and socioeconomics impacted urban and community development. This project investigates the nexus of environment, health, and poverty. It is employing interdisciplinary methods to analyze individual-level mortality data for New Orleans to uncover the spatial characteristics of the mortality transitions and the effects of uneven transitions; an approach that is only recently possible thanks to the development of geographic information systems. The results of this analysis are revealing the process of the mortality transitions and the evolution and effects of the urban disease terrain, crucial information in the history of urban development.