Dissertation Abstracts

Evacuation, Extended Displacement and Recovery: Survival Responses of Low-income Women to the Hurricane Katrina Disaster

Author: Pardee, Jessica W, jwpgss@rit.edu
Department: Sociology
University: Tulane University, USA
Supervisor: Martha Huggins
Year of completion: 2009
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Disaster , Hurricane Katrina , African-American , Poverty
Areas of Research: Disasters , Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy , Community Research


This study examines the lived experiences of 51 low-income, former and current public housing residents from New Orleans, LA in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Using a mixed-methodology, I assess women’s capacity to evacuate, survive displacement and recover following the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Primary findings include that women were able to evacuate, despite their poverty. For those who did not, this was most commonly a choice, based on their assessment of the risk. There was not sufficient evidence to support the claim that their poverty prevented evacuation, since most women were able to pool resources with others in their social network to overcome their individual monetary barriers to evacuation.
Once evacuated, women’s regular poverty survival mechanisms of aid-based, kin-based and work-based assistance were partially dismantled in the disaster context, with kin assistance helping for short durations, and aid-based assistance being the most utilized in the longer term. This pattern occurred, in part, because work-based survival was dismantled by split labor markets and labor discrimination in communities receiving the evacuees in this sample.
Lastly, the assessment of disaster recovery finds that women were living in more precarious poverty circumstances than before the storm, largely dependent on time-delimited disaster relief programs to pay their bills. In sum, short-term recovery was not available to these women and long-term recovery remained questionable at best.