Disasters, Displacement and Health: Lessons from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina

le Lundi 22 Juin 2015 à l’Ined, Salle Sauvy de 11h30 à 12h30

Présenté par Elizabeth Fussell (Population Studies and Training Center, Brown University) ; discutant : Jacques Véron (Ined)

Weather-related disasters – like Hurricane Katrina’s impact on New Orleans – are expected to become more frequent as global temperatures increase and sea levels rise.  The health consequences of these disasters result from both primary exposures and secondary impacts, particularly housing and community displacement.  Yet few scientifically rigorous studies exist to guide our expectations of what those consequences might be and who is most vulnerable.  In this investigation of the health consequences of displacement for a vulnerable population we complicate the meaning of displacement.  Previous studies in the aftermath of natural disasters have demonstrated relationships between four dimensions of displacement – geographic distance from the pre-disaster community, type of post-disaster housing, number of post-disaster moves, and time spent in temporary housing – and adverse psychological outcomes. However, to date no study has explored how these dimensions operate in tandem. The literature is further limited by a reliance on post-disaster data. We demonstrate three profiles of displacement experiences within a sample of low-income African-American mothers: (1) those who returned to a pre-disaster community; (2) those who relocated to a new community, and (3) the unstably housed, who spent long periods in temporary housing and made multiple moves. These profiles predict mental health outcomes, with the displaced suffering poorer outcomes. We also analyze qualitative interview data to investigate the different meanings of displacement for these groups. 


Elizabeth (Beth) Fussell

is Associate Professor of Population Studies (Research) and an Affiliate of the Sociology Department. She earned her PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was a post-doctoral fellow at the Population Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania.  Before coming to Brown, she held faculty appointments at Washington State University and Tulane University. As a migration scholar, Fussell investigates why people move, and whether and how place-based characteristics or environmental events influence human movement. Her current research involves the migrations that occurred in, out, and through New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck on August 29, 2005. This includes a study of the arrival and reception of Latino immigrants who participated in the recovery of the city; a longitudinal study of a pre-disaster cohort of community college students in New Orleans; a survey of a representative sample of New Orleans residents; and analyses of government data sources. Her research on these topics has been published in Demography, Population & Environment, Social Science Quarterly, Social Science & Medicine, and Organization & Environment and in several edited volumes.