The Brookings Institute, a nonprofit public policy group, this month launched the “Katrina Index” to gauge reconstruction efforts in Gulf Coast communities that were hit hard by Hurricane Katrina.

The index, which comes three months after the storm hit, is intended to provide “the first in a series of monthly snapshots of economic and both short-term and long-term reconstruction trends,” according to a Web site description.

The index tracks about 50 economic and social indicators that measure the impact of rebuilding activity in Orleans Parish, the New Orleans metro area, Louisiana and Mississippi. Among the statistics tracked in the Katrina Index: Median existing home price; median household income; delinquency and foreclosure rates; average weekly wages; number of non-farm-employed people; number of mortgage originations, by type; number of hotel units being occupied; number of single-family homes; number of multifamily homes; number of owner-occupied homes; number of renter occupied homes; and total net migration.

“Three months since Hurricane Katrina it remains difficult to ascertain what progress has been made in rebuilding New Orleans and its region. This information is designed to serve as an independent, fact-based, resource for leaders to monitor and evaluate rebuilding efforts. As of now, we intend to update the index once a month through December 2006,” the group announced in the report.

“Because rebuilding involves many different dimensions, we would like to invite any organization or government to share with us additional data that may be useful to this project. In the coming months, we fully expect to extend the length and comprehensiveness of this index.”

The region hit by Hurricane Katrina “remains mired in a state of emergency,” the report states.

Among the data sources cited by the institute: www.nola.com, which “has accumulated a vast archive of personal stories published by both displaced families and residents who have returned to the area,” and the Greater New Orleans Data Center (http://www.gnocdc.org/), which “has accumulated excellent, neighborhood level data and will also be releasing information about displaced families.”

The institute reported that a separate index, the “Iraq Index,” developed through the Brookings Institute to measure progress in rebuilding Iraq, served as the inspiration for the Katrina Index.

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