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Testing the Literature


Of particular interest, our research has dismissed many of the hypotheses raised by the literature for this specific disaster event. Such as:

…were all found to have NO relationship with measures of damage and/or recovery from available data.

Two questions remain however. When attempting to quantify “the older and more stable a neighborhood is,” our measure of % of population living in the same house 25 years or more is not a measure of “stability” rather simply length of tenure. Second, measuring the physical condition of homes in a neighborhood using the median home value reported on the 2000 census is perhaps a weak proxy for housing quality (regardless of the potential for greater losses when values are higher).

On the other hand, our findings also support other measures suggested by the literature:

…all having a positive relationship with measures of damage and/or recovery from available data.

Review of Damage and Recovery Measures:



Detailed Correlations

Returns from the statistical tests run on our data set are listed below. Outcomes that contradict hypothesis proposed in the literature are in red.


As density increases, the potential for catastrophic losses from disaster events increases (Mileti, 1999).

“Building codes were not modernized until the 1950’s, but despite these new codes, it was not until the 1980’s that inspectors received training in floodplain management policies and began to enforce” regulations (Colton, 2005).

Social structures of organization (strong and weak ties) that aid in recovery after a disaster cannot foster in a physical environment that cannot fundamentally support them.

Most homes in the older sections were built with flooding in mind (Colton, 2005).

Higher density of human population creates a dense mass of social networks (strong and weak ties) that should increase ability to recover (Wallace and Wallace, 2008).

The more healthy, productive adults in a household that has weathered a disaster event, the greater the chance for recovery (Morrow, 1999).

The older and more stable a neighborhood is, the larger and more resourceful social networks (strong and weak ties) can become (which aids the recovery process) (Wallace and Wallace, 2008).

Apartment dwellers and renters will have a harder time recovering because they are at the mercy of their landlords willingness to invest capital. The situation becomes even more complicated with condominiums and loft apartment buildings as mutual owners may make conflicting decisions about recovery (Comerio, 1998).

The loss of a significant portion of the business sector in any neighborhood greatly reduces the ability of the local residents to recover from damages due to the loss of local economic ties.

Infrastructure Damage after Katrina

Infrastructure Damage after Katrina

Minimal infrastructure damage permits victims to at least keep their jobs and be able to focus on housing recovery” instead of searching for employment (Comerio, 1998).

“When both housing and commercial sectors are heavily damaged, the real loss of the population and an [economic] base makes recovery issues quite” complicated (Comerio, 1998).

Between 1950 and 1975, the built up area of metropolitan New Orleans doubled in size as the “tissue of suburbia” exploded into the recently drained swamps. Such developments are raising serious questions about the wisdom, much less the safety, of new development in New Orleans (Lewis, 2003, p.76-77).The question at hand is whether a high growth rate is beneficial or detrimental to the formation of social ties that will aid recovery efforts.

Testing the New Measures

Using the median value of owner occupied housing units as a proxy for the physical condition of properties in each zip code.

Using the median real estate taxes for each zip code as a percentage of home value supplies a proxy for the presence of social service institutions that need to be funded with property and school taxes.

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