Five years ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, uprooting the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of New Orleans residents. In the wake of the disaster, city officials and business leaders clamored for data that would help them understand the scope of the problem and determine how best to mount a comeback. But the storm and floodwaters had wiped out standard sources of residential and business data, leaving authorities to only guess at the true dimensions of the remaining populace and which neighborhoods were still viable.
To provide critical population data, analysts at The Nielsen Company stepped in and delivered crucial assistance by combining unconventional sources of data and innovative estimation techniques. Using those estimates, retailers and service providers were able to predict what residents needed, where they were located and which communities were likely to return the soonest. The statistical portrait helped businesses reopen stores and malls, earning customers’ gratitude—and dollars—while contributing to the revival of New Orleans. With the Gulf Coast regularly facing natural disasters—and some man-made like the BP oil spill—business and government leaders are more cognizant than ever of the value of reliable population data and the role it plays in bringing a city back from the brink.