The Legacy of Katrina’s Children: Estimating the Numbers of Hurricane-Related At-Risk Children in the Gulf Coast States of Louisiana and Mississippi

The 2005 hurricane season, which included hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, exacted a monumental toll on the people and infrastructure of the Gulf Coast region in the southern United States. Disaster-related losses were estimated to have exceeded $110 billion. Much has been written about the short-term effects on the local housing stock, economy, and populations. Less understood, however, are the long-term consequences on the children of the Gulf Coast who experienced first the storm, and then the displacement which uprooted so many from their homes and communities. The displacement, which for many children and families continues through the present, has resulted in households living in unfamiliar environments, far from friends and family or locally-supportive community-based organizations, faith-based institutions, and schools. More tangibly, the displacement has also led to hazardous and crowded housing conditions as families were forced to double-up, move in to small travel trailers for extended periods of time, or live in areas adjacent to environmental or construction hazards. The loss of civic infrastructure — particularly among education, health care, and criminal justice systems — has compounded the problems facing families and children as they return to their recovering communities or as they continue to live in temporary or transitional settings. The objective of this research brief is to enumerate the population of children who have been “exposed” to this post-hurricane displacement and infrastructure loss, and to consider how many of them are at elevated risk of a poor future outcome. However much the housing, roadways, and levees are rebuilt and the local economies reconstituted, the legacy of these hurricanes may endure in the lives of these “at-risk” children.

Natural Disaster
Children & Disasters
Vulnerable Populations
Disaster Recovery