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psc brown bag iconGoing Home After Hurricane Katrina: Determinants of Return Migration and Changes in Affected Areas

Jeff Groen (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

12/08/2008, at noon in room 6050 ISR-Thompson.

This paper examines the decisions of Hurricane Katrina evacuees to return to their pre-Katrina areas and documents how the composition of the Katrina-affected region has changed over time. Using data from the Current Population Survey, we show that age, home ownership, and the severity of damage in an evacuee's county of origin are important determinants of whether an evacuee returned. In addition, blacks are less likely to return than whites, but this appears to be closely linked to the geographical pattern of storm damage rather than to race per se. We show that differences between the composition of evacuees who returned and those who did not return are the primary force behind changes in the composition of the affected areas over the first two years after Katrina. Changes in demographic composition and distribution of family income are generally larger for the high-damage areas than for the entire affected area, which is consistent with the magnitude of population shifts induced by the storm. In particular, Katrina is associated with substantial shifts in the racial composition of the affected areas, an increasing presence of Hispanics, and shifts to the right in both the distribution of family income and the distribution of education.


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