Non-Evacuation Before Hurricane Katrina: Did Social Networks Matter?

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Hurricane Katrina spurred the largest mass migration in United States' history since the Dust Bowl. However, many residents of the Gulf Coast decided not to evacuate. This thesis examines the issue of non-evacuation during Katrina. First, it situates the topic theoretically, in relation to four distinct literatures: demographic studies of migration; environmental sociology; the sociology of disaster; and the political geography of place. Among other things, this discussion suggests that social networks may have played an important cultural and material role in households' evacuation decisions. This expectation is tested in the second phase of this study using data from Harvard Medical School's Hurricane Katrina Community Advisory Group's survey of Gulf Coast residents. Contrary to expectations, however, the analyses here provide no evidence that networks affected the odds of timely evacuation during Hurricane Katrina. Instead, educational attainment was a significant predictor of evacuation behavior in the New Orleans metropolitan area; race and income were significant factors in the non-New Orleans sample. Moreover, storm preparation behavior and the number of evacuation warnings received by households both had significant effects on the odds of evacuating before the storm in the New Orleans metropolitan sample. Despite a number of key limitations imposed by the secondary nature of the data utilized in this thesis, the theoretical and empirical insights of this research suggest that future research should continue to seek a more nuanced understanding of evacuation behavior during extreme weather events.
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Hurricane Katrina; Environmental Sociology; Social Networks
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Brown, David L
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Pfeffer, Max John
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Development Sociology
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M.S., Development Sociology
Degree Level
Master of Science
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Government Document
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dissertation or thesis
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