A Preliminary Assessment of Social and Economic Impacts Associated with Hurricane Katrina

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Abstract

Storm surge and wind associated with Hurricane Katrina caused many deaths and the destruction of property and public infrastructure along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The devastation was predicted, and absent massive and immediate action, the next major storm will inevitably produce additional disastrous outcomes. Somewhat less predictable are the many social changes associated with the hurricane and public sector response to the event. We characterize some of the more salient human consequences across multiple sectors of the economy—including energy, finance, construction, housing, gaming, and commercial fisheries. We examine how preexisting social trends were amplified, otherwise-latent social and cultural distinctions were exacerbated, and national resources and funds intended for broad-scale “recovery” were converted into instruments of capital formation and further concentration of wealth. We conclude with a discussion exploring public policy and other implications of the disaster in a context of ever-increasing global, environmental, and social challenges.

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