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The Effect of Disasters on Migration Destinations: Evidence from Hurricane Katrina


While post-disaster migration can move vulnerable populations from dangerous regions to relatively safe ones, little is known about decisions that migrants use to select new homes. We develop an econometric model of migrant flows to examine the characteristics of the destinations that attracted migrants leaving the New Orleans area following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 relative to migration behaviors in other years. We find an increased flow of migrants to large, nearby counties with a mixed effect of economic variables on migration. We find that counties that had experienced fewer disasters received a greater proportion of total migrants in 2005, but there was an overall increase in migration flow to disaster-prone regions as well.

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  1. While Louisiana is organized into parishes rather than counties, we will use the term counties throughout this paper to facilitate discussion of destination locations.

  2. Inclusion of the counties affected by Hurricane Katrina into the dataset would result in an increased preference for close destinations in non-hurricane years but a decreased preference for close destinations in 2005. This would falsely suggest that migrants do not care about distance after disasters, when the decrease in migration is actually driven by a change in the attractiveness of the nearby counties.

  3. There are 3,144 counties and county equivalents in the U.S. and affected counties are removed from the set of potential destination counties as well as any counties for which explanatory variables are unavailable.

  4. We thank an anonymous referee for this suggestion.

  5. The results do not appreciably change if a destination county’s population is replaced by its population density.


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Correspondence to Jonathan Eyer.

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Eyer, J., Dinterman, R., Miller, N. et al. The Effect of Disasters on Migration Destinations: Evidence from Hurricane Katrina. EconDisCliCha 2, 91–106 (2018).

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  • Post-disaster migration
  • Hurricane Katrina
  • Pull factors