Post-disaster fertility: Hurricane Katrina and the changing racial composition of New Orleans
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Large-scale climate events can have enduring effects on population size and composition. Natural disasters affect population fertility through multiple mechanisms, including displacement, demand for children, and reproductive care access. Fertility effects, in turn, influence the size and composition of new birth cohorts, extending the reach of climate events across generations. We study these processes in New Orleans during the decade spanning Hurricane Katrina. We combine census data, ACS data, and vital statistics data to describe fertility in New Orleans and seven comparison cities. Following Katrina, displacement contributed to a 30% decline in birth cohort size. Black fertility fell, and remained 4% below expected values through 2010. By contrast, white fertility increased by 5%. The largest share of births now occurs to white women. These fertility differences—beyond migration-driven population change—generate additional pressure on the renewal of New Orleans as a city in which the black population is substantially smaller in the disaster’s wake.