Billy Joel once said he'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, and from the looks of a recent publication by the personal-finance website WalletHub for their 2021 "Most Sinful Cities in America," report, it looks like there will be a lot of laughs in the neighboring cities of Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
After studying more than 180 cities, New Orleans comes in at number 18 and Baton Rouge at 16 for the category of most sinful. The study was based on different metrics for each of the seven deadly sins, and Baton Rouge comes in 1st place for Laziness and New Orleans in 10th for that category, while some other top scoring categories include Excess & Vices, as well as Anger/Hatred.
The seven sins this study is based on are Anger/Hatred, Jealousy, Excess & Vices, Greed, Lust, Vanity, and Laziness. The report utilized 37 relevant metrics to measure the sinning, from violent crimes per 1,000 residents to the number of fast-food establishments and the number of hours spent watching TV. Some other interesting categories included the bullying rate, the share of adult coffee drinkers, debt to income ratio, casinos per capita, and tanning salons per capita. The report drew data from a variety of sources including the US Census, the FBI, the Bureau of Labor, County Health Ratings, and even Yelp and Tinder. So, what is it in these data collections that sets Baton Rouge and New Orleans apart from other cities where sinning may run even more rampant in different ways?
Another component of the study was asking six experts across various fields such as sociology or law to what extent is sinful behavior innate versus influenced by your surroundings. The sin that these two cities are suffering from the most are Laziness, which was based upon six factors of the share of adults not exercising, average weekly hours worked, volunteer rate, average daily time spent watching TV, high school dropout rate, and disconnected youth, which are teens and young adults between 16 and 24 who are neither working nor in school. It can be agreed that some of these factors should not be taken at just face value, but given consideration for factors at play. For example, some teens may have to drop out in order to support their families financially by working a full-time job.
To help get a better idea of sinning and its impacts, the report then had a section asking six experts in various fields discussion questions about sinning and sins. When asked, "To what extent is sinful behavior innate versus influenced by your surroundings?" Jonathan White, Ph.D., associate professor of Sociology at Bentley University, answered, "The essential point of a discussion on behaviors deemed to be immoral is to understand what societal factors are contributing. Interestingly, in a society such as ours in the United States that often holds individualism as a higher value than the community and personal rights as a competing value to the common good and rights of the majority, it can be difficult to even have a focused conversation on the societal factors that lead to immoral behavior. This is because we tend to want to look at the micro-level, solely holding individuals responsible for their behaviors and not looking in parallel at large social trends which indicate clearly that society is playing a macro-level role in these trends and must also be scrutinized."
This is to say that these two top cities in Louisiana may not be inherently "worse" than other cities, but may be facing more infrastructure and societal problems. These populations may be more accepting of struggles people are facing and may not define certain acts or behaviors as sinful. The citizens of these cities have dealt with rebuilding after natural disasters, including the historical devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the detrimental effects of Hurricane Ida last year. Having greatly suffered during the pandemic due to a loss in tourism revenue, as well as during the aftermath of the hurricane, many are more understanding of unemployment and long-term societal effects of rebuilding.
For progressive travelers willing to take a deeper dive, these two cities offer an array of museums, parks, bike trails, and a variety of international and healthy cuisines. In stark contrast to what the study shows, these cities' populations are filled with many hard-working citizens dedicated to rebuilding, growth, and a brighter future. In New Orleans, while The Saints provide great entertainment, several players have charities, including the Terron Armstead Foundation, which organizes back to school giveaways, food drives, and access to the 40,000 square foot community center that serves as its headquarters and offers programs such as mentorship and afterschool programs. These two cities provide heart and soul experiences that far outweigh the somewhat narrow perceptions portrayed in the study of what it means to sin.