Moving to Opportunity in the Wake of Disaster: From Spatial Displacement to Neighborhood Attainment

Corina Graif, University of Michigan
Mary Waters, Harvard University

While some studies examine the repopulation of communities after disasters, disproportionately fewer track the evacuees who do not return to their old neighborhoods. Thus, we know very little about their post-disaster residential contexts. This study analyses the spatial mobility patterns of over 850 low-income African American families interviewed in New Orleans before the Hurricane Katrina, whose addresses were tracked again anywhere they moved in the country by 2007. The results show that the respondents who move enter less disadvantaged neighborhoods with also higher proportions of whites and Hispanics. Compared to the non-flooded families, the flooded ones experienced higher improvements in neighborhood quality. Moreover, the respondents who move outside the city or outside Louisiana enter neighborhoods that are significantly improved compared to their pre-hurricane neighborhoods or compared to the post-hurricane neighborhoods of families within the city or in the state. The authors discuss the implications of these results for mobility programs.

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Presented in Session 191: Climate-Related Environmental Events and Population Displacement