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March 2008, Vol. 131, No. 3
Hurricane Katrina evacuees: who they are, where they are, and how they are faring
Jeffrey A. Groen and Anne E. Polivka
Hurricane Katrina, which struck the gulf coast in August 2005, has had lasting and far-reaching effects. Katrina caused massive flooding in the city of New Orleans and catastrophic damage along the gulf coasts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. As a result, Katrina caused one of the largest and most abrupt relocations of people in U.S. history. The plight of evacuees was a central theme in the national news coverage of the hurricane, as Katrina dominated the news for an entire month after making landfall.1 Indeed, more than 2 years after the storm, Katrina evacuees and the condition of New Orleans continue to receive considerable media attention.2
In response to the unprecedented damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, along with the commensurate massive relocation of individuals, questions were added to the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS) from October 2005 to October 2006 to identify Katrina evacuees, the county (or parish) from which they had evacuated, and if and when these individuals returned to their pre-Katrina residences. This article uses the responses to those questions, in combination with information collected in the CPS on a regular basis, to examine the demographic characteristics of those who evacuated, establish the breadth of the relocation, and explore the labor force status and incomes of evacuees.
The estimates derived from the CPS data in the analysis that follows indicate that approximately 1.5 million people aged 16 years and older left their residences in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama because of Hurricane Katrina and that the demographic characteristics of evacuees closely mirror the demographic characteristics of those who resided in the Katrina-affected counties in these States prior to the storm. The estimates, however, also indicate that those who returned to where they were living prior to the storm differed markedly from those who did not in terms of demographic characteristics, labor force status, and income.
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1 Miles Kimball, Helen Levy, Fumio Ohtake, and Yoshiro Tsutsui, “Unhappiness after Hurricane Katrina,” NBER Working Paper 12062 (Cambridge, MA, National Bureau of Economic Research, 2006).
2 See, for example, Shaila Dewan, “Road to New Life After Katrina is Closed to Many,” New York Times, July 12, 2007; Peter Whoriskey, “Study Says Storms Displaced More People than Estimated,” Washington Post, Aug. 8, 2007; and Michael Abramowitz and Michael A. Fletcher, “Bush Says Gulf Coast Isn’t Forgotten,” Washington Post, Aug. 30, 2007.
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