Saturday, January 28, 2006

Brown University study details Katrina's disparities

A Brown University team led by John Logan recently released a major study detailing the effects of Katrina on the city of New Orleans. The study, The Impact of Katrina: Race and Class in Storm-Damaged Neighborhoods (Acrobat file, 8MB, 17 pages), is summarized in the introduction as follows:
1. More than a third of the region’s 1.7 million residents lived in areas that suffered flooding or moderate to catastrophic storm damage, according to FEMA. The majority of people living in damaged areas were in the City of New Orleans (over 350,000), with additional concentrations in suburban Jefferson Parish (175,000) and St. Bernard Parish (53,000) and along the Mississippi Coast (54,000).

2. In the region as a whole, the disparities in storm damage are shown in the following comparisons (arranged in order of the degree of disparity):
  • By race. Damaged areas were 45.8% black, compared to 26.4% in undamaged areas.
  • By housing tenure. 45.7% of homes in damaged areas were occupied by renters, compared to 30.9% in undamaged communities.
  • By poverty and employment status. 20.9% of households had incomes below the poverty line in damaged areas, compared to 15.3% in undamaged areas. 7.6% of persons in the labor force were unemployed in damaged areas (before the storm), compared to 6.0% in undamaged areas.
3. These comparisons are heavily influenced by the experience of the City of New Orleans. Outside the city, there were actually smaller shares of African American, poor, and unemployed residents in the damaged areas.

4. Closer inspection of neighborhoods within New Orleans shows that some affluent white neighborhoods were hard hit, while some poor minority neighborhoods were spared. Yet if the post-Katrina city were limited to the population previously living in areas that were undamaged by the storm – that is, if nobody were able to return to damaged neighborhoods – New Orleans is at risk of losing more than 80% of its black population. This means that policy choices affecting who can return, to which neighborhoods, and with what forms of public and private assistance, will greatly affect the future character of the city.
The study was picked up by the New York Times and the L.A. Times.

The project, formally called "Katrina and the Built Environment: Spatial and Social Impacts," also provides fantastically detailed, interactive maps of the affected areas of the Gulf Coast.

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