Population and Environment

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 179–202 | Cite as

Disaster disparities and differential recovery in New Orleans

  • Christina Finch
  • Christopher T. Emrich
  • Susan L. CutterEmail author
Original Paper


The historical disparities in the socio-demographic structure of New Orleans shaped the social vulnerability of local residents and their responses to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. These disparities, derived from race, class, gender, and age differences, have resulted in the uneven impact of the catastrophe on various communities in New Orleans, and importantly, their ability to recover. This article examines how the pre-existing social vulnerabilities within New Orleans interacted with the level of flood exposure to produce inequities in the socio-spatial patterns of recovery. Utilizing a combination of statistical and spatial approaches, we found a distinct geographic pattern to the recovery suggesting that the social burdens and impacts from Hurricane Katrina are uneven—the less flooded and less vulnerable areas are recovering faster than tracts with more vulnerable populations and higher levels of flooding. However, there is a more nuanced story, which suggests that it is neighborhoods in the mid-range of social vulnerability where recovery is lagging. While private resources and government programs help groups in the high and low categories of social vulnerability, the middle group shows the slowest rates of recovery. Further, it appears that the congressionally funded State of Louisiana Road Home Program (designed to provide compensation to Louisiana’s homeowners who suffered impacts by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita for the damage to their home) is not having a significant effect in stimulating recovery within the city.


Disaster recovery Social vulnerability New Orleans Governmental support 



A preliminary version of this article was presented at the Disaster and Migration Conference at Tulane University, April 12–14, 2007. We would like to thank the participants at the workshop for their comments on the research. We also would like to thank Melanie Gall for her critical review of our analysis. Any errors, however, remain ours.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina Finch
    • 1
  • Christopher T. Emrich
    • 2
  • Susan L. Cutter
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Pacific Disaster CenterKiheiUSA
  2. 2.Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute, Department of GeographyUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA

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