Dimensions Of Poverty: An Examination Of Quality Of Life, Security, Opportunies, And Empowerment Among New Orleans' Tourism Industry Workers
The tourism industry (TI) brings substantial resources into New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA); and yet many of its workers continue to experience high levels of poverty and related socio-economic issues. Previous research has adequately addressed how the TI impacts the city on a macroeconomic level, but no studies have yet been conducted on those working within it. This study demonstrates that NOLA TI workers are experiencing multiple dimensions of poverty. For this research the common definition of poverty is expanded beyond income levels and asset holdings to include: quality of life; social and political empowerment; personal and property security; and educational and professional opportunities. This emergent qualitative research study draws upon archival data to garner official and objective descriptive statistics, and in-depth interviews with TI workers. A conceptual framework originally devised by Weibing Zhao and JR Ritchie is augmented using research from the fields of Anti-Poverty Tourism (APT), Satisfaction With Life (SWL) surveys, and Capabilities Approach. This revised framework is then applied to the responses provided by 61 NOLA TI workers that were interviewed. This study finds that levels of income and asset poverty among NOLA TI workers are significantly higher than the rest of the city, state, or country. Additionally, age, race, and gender do not play significant factors in determining levels of poverty among workers, but job category plays a small role. While levels of security, opportunity, empowerment and quality of life (SOEQ) may be demonstrably low among TI workers, they frequently perceive them to be high. The hypothesis of "u201cgeographical capital"u201d is presented which maintains there are non-wage factors keeping workers in their occupations due to their love for the city based on their reasons for moving to it. These factors may enrich workers"' lives in other ways, but they are not correlated to higher levels of SOEQ. This hypothesis is rejected. The hypothesis of "u201crelationships as compensation"u201d is then presented. It suggests there are non-wage factors for which workers are willing to endure higher levels of different kinds of poverty in exchange for developing and maintaining extensive social networks. The evidence supports accepting this hypothesis. International development researchers and policy-makers can design and implement new policies focusing on social networks and personal relationships to decrease nontraditional forms of poverty. In this way the research aims to inform the poverty, labor, and tourism dialogues within the context of international development in New Orleans and elsewhere.