Population and Environment

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 279–310 | Cite as

Contexts of reception, post-disaster migration, and socioeconomic mobility

  • Asad L. Asad
Original Paper


Current theories conceptualize return migration to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina as an individual-level assessment of costs and benefits. Since relocation is cost prohibitive, return migration is thought to be unlikely for vulnerable populations. However, recent analyses of longitudinal survey data suggest that these individuals are likely to return to New Orleans over time despite achieving socioeconomic gains in the post-disaster location. I extend the “context of reception” approach from the sociology of immigration and draw on longitudinal data from the Resilience in the Survivors of Katrina Project to demonstrate how institutional, labor market, and social contexts influence the decision to return. Specifically, I show how subjective comparisons of the three contexts between origin and destination, perceived experiences of discrimination within each context, and changing contexts over time explain my sample’s divergent migration and mobility outcomes. I conclude with implications for future research on, and policy responses to, natural disasters.


Contexts of reception Post-disaster migration Socioeconomic mobility Natural disasters Hurricane Katrina Vulnerable populations Mixed methodology 



For comments on earlier versions of this article, I thank four anonymous reviewers, Monica C. Bell, Matthew Clair, Kathryn Edin, Filiz Garip, Anthony Jack, Cassandra Robertson, Patrick Sharkey, Jessica Tollette, Alba Villamil, Mary C. Waters, William Julius Wilson, Chris Winship, and Alix S. Winter, as well as participants in the Multidisciplinary Program on Inequality and Social Policy. A previous version of this paper was presented at the 2014 American Sociological Association Annual Meeting in San Francisco, where I received invaluable feedback from Alexis Merdjanoff and Lori Peek. I am indebted to Mariana Arcaya and Meghan DeNubila for research assistance. I acknowledge support from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy at Harvard. The National Science Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation generously provided support for the Resilience in Survivors of Katrina Project.

Ethical standard

The data collection procedures described above were approved by Institutional Review Boards at Harvard University and Princeton University and, as such, comply with US federal law.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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