Social Capital and the Repopulation of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina

Heather M. Rackin, Louisiana State University
Frederick Weil, Louisiana State University

Repopulation, one of the central elements of disaster recovery, generally rests on three legs: the amount of damage, individual resources, and collective resources or social capital. Most demographic research on repopulation after Hurricane Katrina (2005) has focused mainly on the first two factors and has not assessed social capital well, probably because government agencies, which provide most data, tend not to measure it. We conducted a large (N=7,000) survey in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina that contains extensive measures of social capital. Our analyses show that storm damage is the largest determinant of neighborhood recovery, across census tracts. While individual resources matter, their impact becomes statistically insignificant when damage and collective resources are controlled for. By contrast, collective resources or social capital have a strong independent effect: neighborhoods with stronger civic engagement recover more quickly, even when damage and individual resources are taken into account.

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Presented in Session 223: Population and Natural Disasters