Returning to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina displaced approximately 650,000 people and destroyed or severely damaged 217,000 homes along the Gulf Coast. Damage was especially severe in New Orleans, and the return of displaced residents to this city has been slow. The fraction of households receiving mail (which, in the absence of reliable population estimates, is a good indicator for returns) was 49.5 percent in August 2006, and 66.0 percent in June 2007 (Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, 2007). Low-income minority families appear to have been slower than others to return (William H. Frey and Audrey Singer, 2006). In this paper, we examine the determinants of returning to New Orleans in the 18 months after the hurricane. The data come from a study of low-income parents, mainly African American women, who were enrolled in a community college intervention prior to the hurricane. Although the sample is not representative of the pre-Katrina population of the city, it nonetheless is of great interest. The relatively slow return of low income, primarily African American, residents is a politically charged issue. One (extreme) view is that the redevelopment plans are designed to discourage low-income minority residents from returning. A quite different view is that members of this group have found better opportunities outside of New Orleans, and do not want to return. Because few data sets trace individuals from before to after the hurricane, this debate has taken place largely without the benefit of evidence.
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