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Southern Spaces

How Natural Disasters Can Spur Gentrification

New Orleans neighborhoods that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 were more likely to gentrify over the following 10 years, researchers find.

Natural disasters are devastating events, and hurricanes, with their powerful winds and large-scale flooding, can literally flatten communities. Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in August 2005, left some people stranded on their roofs and drove others into the Superdome for shelter. All told, Katrina damaged 200,000 homes and displaced more than 800,000 residents of the region.

Now, a new paper in the journal Urban Studies examines the extent to which Katrina paved the way for gentrification in hurricane-damaged areas of New Orleans. To assess this, the authors, Eric Joseph van Holm of Arizona State University and Christopher Wyczalkowski of Georgia State University, look at the association between neighborhood damage inflicted by Katrina and gentrification. Their study uses data from the City of New Orleans to identify the level of physical damage to neighborhoods, then tracks gentrification in these neighborhoods before and after Katrina, using Census Bureau data for the period 2000 to 2015.

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