Trapped in Place? Segmented Resilience to Hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, 1970–2005

Abstract

Hurricanes pose a continuing hazard to populations in coastal regions. This study estimates the impact of hurricanes on population change in the years 1970–2005 in the U.S. Gulf Coast region. Geophysical models are used to construct a unique data set that simulates the spatial extent and intensity of wind damage and storm surge from the 32 hurricanes that struck the region in this period. Multivariate spatial time-series models are used to estimate the impacts of hurricanes on population change. Population growth is found to be reduced significantly for up to three successive years after counties experience wind damage, particularly at higher levels of damage. Storm surge is associated with reduced population growth in the year after the hurricane. Model extensions show that change in the white and young adult population is more immediately and strongly affected than is change for blacks and elderly residents. Negative effects on population are stronger in counties with lower poverty rates. The differentiated impact of hurricanes on different population groups is interpreted as segmented withdrawal—a form of segmented resilience in which advantaged population groups are more likely to move out of or avoid moving into harm’s way while socially vulnerable groups have fewer choices.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    From 1998 to 2012, there were 149 major disaster declarations due to hurricanes and tropical storms in the United States, mostly on the Gulf Coast and in South Atlantic states (http://www.fema.gov/disasters/grid/year?field_disaster_type_term_tid_1=6840&=GO).

  2. 2.

    See, for example, the “Community Resilience Planning Guide” by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (http://www.nist.gov/el/building_materials/resilience/guide.cfm). The goal of resilience planning is to “improve a community’s abilities to continue or restore vital services in a more timely way, and to build back better.”

  3. 3.

    We ran models in STATA using the procedure areg (cluster county).

  4. 4.

    To estimate the model for the black population, we omitted counties with fewer than 200 black residents in the previous year because we found that the values of percentage change when calculated against a very small population base fluctuated erratically.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by National Science Foundation through Grant CMMI-0624088 and National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development through Grant R21 HD065079. The Population Studies and Training Center at Brown University (R24 HD041020) provided general support. Rima Wahab Twibell provided research assistance on application and validation of damage models. Emory Boose provided technical advice on the application of HURRECON.

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Logan, J.R., Issar, S. & Xu, Z. Trapped in Place? Segmented Resilience to Hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, 1970–2005. Demography 53, 1511–1534 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-016-0496-4

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Keywords

  • Disaster
  • Hurricane
  • Resilience
  • Migration
  • U.S. Gulf Coast