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

Jeffrey A Groen, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Anne E Polivka, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

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. We use data from the Current Population Survey, which was modified in the wake of Katrina to include special questions on evacuees, in combination with outside data on damage from the storm. We show that age, race, and the severity of damage in an evacuee's county of origin are important determinants of whether evacuees returned. The demographic composition of evacuees who returned differs from that of evacuees who did not return: returnees are older and a larger percentage of returnees are white. Despite large differences in the demographic composition of returnees and non-returnees, at the aggregate level the demographic composition of the Katrina-affected region changed relatively little over time. However, changes over time in the distribution of household income were substantial.

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Presented in Session 130: Tracking the Displaced: Methods and Results