Katrina and the Built Environment: Spatial and Social Impacts


katrina Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are likely to have long-term effects on the cities and towns of the Gulf Coast . An interdisciplinary group of scholars, led by S4 Director John Logan, has received support from NSF's Human and Social Dynamics program to study these impacts through 2009. Links on the left side of this page provide more information about the research and the investigators.

To see the team's initial report (January 2006) assessing who lived in the damaged neighborhoods, click here. Initial news coverage by The New York Times and Los Angeles Times draws attention especially to the question of who will be part of the future New Orleans, which we will be following over a period of several years. A short segment on Earth and Sky (radio) points to the specific question of whose voice will be heard in the policy process.

A second report focuses on the turnout for the mayoral primary and runoff elections that were held in March and April, 2005. Click here for an analysis of how the results were affected by post-Katrina displacement. An early version of this report was also the basis for a story in the New Orleans Times Picayune.

Our purpose is to identify which communities were most affected, which will be rebuilt and how they will be different from before. We will integrate remotely sensed ecological data with environmental hazard information as well as demographic and socioeconomic data to understand the social and ecological vulnerabilities of impacted communities. By studying which population groups lived in different areas, we will identify with precision the differential impacts of the disaster. We also plan to follow the progress of post-disaster adjustment, identifying new configurations of what are considered safe or desirable areas, choices about public infrastructure investments, and locational decisions made by past and potential new residents.

In addition to the demographic and sociological aspects of displacement and rebuilding, the project will incorporate perspectives from environmental science and ecology. We will study how the physical environment, particularly wetlands and patterns of groundcover, may have protected some areas, as well as how the post-hurricane environment affects redevelopment. A scientific understanding of the effects of these hurricanes will be valuable for public policymaking, both in the short term (investments in the region over the next  Old Photo of Mardi Gras Dayseveral years) and in the long term (planning for the security of coastal zones).

An initial step is the development of a web-based mapping system that allows us and others to visualize the areas most affected by the hurricane and flooding, identify them in terms of population, race, and socioeconomic composition, and download these data for analysis. Click here to enter the Katrina map system.

Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences (S4)
Brown University