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Bureau of Labor Statistics > Office of Survey Methods and Research > Publications > Browse Research Papers

Going Home after Hurricane Katrina: Determinants of Return Migration and Changes in Affected Areas

Jeffrey A. Groen and Anne E. Polivka

Abstract

This paper examines the decision of Hurricane Katrina evacuees to return to their pre-Katrina areas and documents how the composition of the Katrina-affected region changed over time. Using data from the Current Population Survey, we show that an evacuee’s age and the severity of damage in an evacuee’s county of origin are important determinants of whether an evacuee returned during the first year after the storm. Blacks were less likely to return than whites, but this difference is primarily related to the geographical pattern of storm damage rather than to race per se. The difference between the composition of evacuees who returned and the composition of evacuees who did not return is the primary force behind changes in the composition of the affected areas in the first two years after the storm. Katrina is associated with substantial shifts in the racial composition of the affected areas (namely a decrease in the percentage of residents who are black) and an increasing presence of Hispanics. Katrina is also associated with an increase in the percentage of older residents, a decrease in the percentage of residents with low income/education, and an increase in the percentage of residents with high income/education.