Going Home: Evacuation-Migration Decisions of Hurricane Katrina Survivors
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many evacuees from the Gulf region began the difficult process of deciding whether to rebuild or restart elsewhere. We examine pre-Katrina Gulf residents’ decision to return to the post-disaster Gulf region—which we call the “return migration” decision. We estimate two separate return migration models, first utilizing data from a mail survey of individuals in the affected region and then focusing on self-administered questionnaires of evacuees in Houston. Our results indicate that return migration can be affected by household income; age; education level; employment, marital and home ownership status; but the results depend upon the population under consideration. We find no impact of “connection to place” on the return migration decision. While the impact of income is relatively small, we find that the real wage differential between home and host region influences the likelihood of return. Larger implicit costs, in terms of foregone wages for returning, induce a lower likelihood of return. Exploiting this difference at the individual level, we are able to produce estimates of willingness to pay to return home. Average WTP to return home for a sample of relatively poor households is estimated at $1.94 per hour or $3,954 per year.
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