Taking the High Ground: FEMA Trailer Siting after Hurricane Katrina


  • Daniel P. Aldrich is associate professor of public policy at Purdue University and, during the 2012–13 academic year, Fulbright research professor at Tokyo University. During 2011–12, he was an AAAS Science and Technology Fellow at the U.S. Agency for International Development in Washington, DC. He has published two books—Site Fights: Divisive Facilities and Civil Society in Japan and the West (Cornell University Press, 2008) and Building Resilience: Social Capital in Post-Disaster Recovery (University of Chicago Press, 2012), 24 peer-reviewed articles, and more than 60 op-eds, reviews, and articles for the general public. E-mail: daniel.aldrich@gmail.com

  • Kevin Crook is currently working for a private equity fi rm located in Houston, Texas. Previously, he worked in Raymond James’ investment banking division. He graduated from Tulane University with a degree in fi nance and has published in Political Research Quarterly. E-mail: crook.kevin@gmail.com


Using data on more than 300 census blocks from across New Orleans, Louisiana, this article investigates two steps in the placement of temporary housing after Hurricane Katrina. First, the authors seek to understand the factors that determined whether census blocks were selected for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailers. Then, in light of the widespread resistance to the trailers, they focus on variables that influenced whether trailers were successfully placed on those sites. Despite past research arguing that race, collective action potential, and political factors are the primary determinants of facility placement and the success or failure of the attempt, these data show that technocratic criteria dominated. Interestingly, although census blocks in less vulnerable areas were more likely to be selected as locations for FEMA trailer parks than ones in more vulnerable areas, it was precisely the former areas where siting success was less likely. Flood-resistant areas that decision makers chose for housing were less willing to accept such projects than more flood-prone ones.