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Uneven Patterns Characterize Return of Businesses in Post-Catastrophe New Orleans

NSF Award:

Decision-Making Among Businesses in Post-Catastrophe Uncertainty: How Economic Geographies Re-Form in New Orleans  (Louisiana State University & Agricultural and Mechanical College)

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A large number of New Orleans businesses were damaged by flooding and related disruptions caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Following their analysis of an extensive series of telephone and street surveys, an interdisciplinary team of researchers, led by Nina Lam of Louisiana State University, found that the post-catastrophe return of businesses has been slow and uneven. The researchers learned that businesses were more likely to return if they were independently owned rather than affiliates of larger commercial chains. Somewhat surprisingly, businesses providing essential goods or services were not likely to reopen at faster rates than those providing luxury or non-essential products. Variables that were more likely to be associated with faster rates of business return were the presence of higher-income residents nearby, as well as the presence of other businesses. The measure of spatial dependence was a better predictor of business return than was the degree of flooding or damage.

The research project was supported by an NSF Small Grant for Exploratory Research (SGER), awarded as part of the Human and Social Dynamics (HSD) priority area in the months immediately following Katrina. The SGER award enabled Lam and her colleagues to access time-critical data on reestablishment of businesses to complement data being gathered on the resettlement of residents.  The focus on the return of businesses to New Orleans helped shed new light on the relationship between commercial and residential resettlement in a period of great uncertainty following a highly disruptive catastrophe. 

To capitalize on the insights and data that they collected during the period immediately after Katrina's devastation, the researchers have received a full HSD research award to combine the survey data with other Geographic Information System data and develop quantitative models of factors that contribute to the survival or failure of a business after a major catastrophe.

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  • Photo of houses in New Orleans
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New Orleans, Louisiana
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New Orleans, Louisiana
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