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Katrina & the Gulf Coast

About Katrina & the Gulf Coast

IWPR researchers began studying women’s circumstances along the U.S. Gulf Coast almost immediately after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and were among the first to respond with that focus. IWPR’s current research with women in the post-Katrina Gulf region suggests that improvements to policy and planning can help with everyday life, as well as in emergencies or disasters.

Through interviews conducted in 2008-2009, and follow up interviews with a subset of respondents, IWPR discovered issues that are crucial to displaced, low-income women obtaining jobs and education. In 2010, using our research material as well as U.S. Census statistics, IWPR released policy commentaries, preliminary papers, and fact sheets related to the study. IWPR also conducted a fourth year of the study with roughly 200 women who were residents of New Orleans public housing at the time of Hurricane Katrina.

The study with women displaced from public housing in New Orleans has pointed to accessible transportation and affordable housing as primary among the resources that low-income women—especially the elderly, disabled, and women of color—find important just to get by, as well as succeed in meeting educational and employment goals. We continue our analysis of research material to learn more. After our findings are presented to external reviewers and discussants for feedback, the completed project report and recommendations will be released.


To see our experts on this and other initiatives, click here.

View our external resources page for more information on this topic.

Latest Reports from IWPR

Get to the Bricks: The Experiences of Black Women from New Orleans Public Housing After Hurricane Katrina
by Jane Henrici, Ph.D., with Chandra Childers, Ph.D., and Elyse Shaw, M.A. (August 2015)

Get to the Bricks: The Experiences of Black Women from New Orleans Public Housing After Hurricane Katrina presents the results of qualitative research conducted with 184 low-income black women who lived in public housing prior to Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans, and who were displaced by the hurricane and the closure and demolition of their housing. This report attempts to answer a series of interconnected questions regarding the challenges that women in public housing faced when trying to evacuate, while displaced, and when trying to return or settle in new communities. The study explores the reasoning behind their choices to either return to New Orleans or remain displaced and the resources that were or were not avilable to these women as they attempted to make the best decisions for themselves and their families after such an enormous disaster. This report recommends a more holistic approach to disaster relief efforts in the United States, including coordinated services and policies that consider the needs of the most vulnerable portions of the population. The report is part of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research’s work, begun in 2005, focusing on women from different communities, backgrounds, and experiences along the U.S. Gulf Coast following the Katrina-related disasters. The research is also one of a set of investigations conducted as a part of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) Katrina Task Force.


The Gendered Dynamics of Income Security: How Social Science Research Can Identify Pathways Out of Poverty and Toward Economic Security
by Courtney Kishbaugh and Jeffrey Hayes, Ph.D. (May 2013)

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) addressed issues of women, poverty and income security issues from its beginnings. IWPR’s first publication on these topics, Low-Wage Jobs and Workers: Trends and Options for Change (published in 1989), finds a growing share of adults working in low-wage jobs and a growing share of families relying on low-wage work for a major share of family income. It also finds that women and people of color are far more likely to work in low-wage jobs than white males. Federal or federally-funded data sets analyzed for the study included the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and the Panel Study on Income Dynamics (PSID). Low-Wage Jobs and Workers, a report funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and jointly disseminated with the non-profit Women Work! (then the National Displaced Homemakers Network), became the first of many influential policy pieces centered on poverty and income security. Since then, IWPR has continued to expand its research on poverty issues, focusing primarily on the topics of Social Security and older women’s economic security, welfare reform and its impact on women and children, the impact of unemployment on low-income women and their families, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast region. IWPR’s work has shed light on the experiences and needs of particularly vulnerable and underserved communities, inspired national and international conversations about these issues, and informed policy change.


Women in New Orleans: Race, Poverty, and Hurricane Katrina
by Allison Suppan Helmuth and Jane M. Henrici, Ph.D. (August 2010)

IWPR analysis of American Community Survey (ACS) and U.S. Census Bureau data1 reveals that after Hurricane Katrina and the evacuation of New Orleans in August 2005, the city’s demographics have changed with respect to race and economic status among women.


Women, Disasters, and Hurricane Katrina
by Jane M. Henrici, Ph.D., Allison Suppan Helmuth, and Jackie Braun (August 2010)

Major disasters during the last decade have pushed planners and researchers to examine more closely the disparities among those hurt when crises hit. Research suggests that women often suffer disproportionately in comparison to most men when disaster strikes, while the elderly, and people in poverty, are more vulnerable than those with more mobility and those with greater access to resources. According to reports addressing disasters occurring outside of the United States, 1.5 times as many women as men died during the 1995 Kobe earthquake, and three times as many women as men died from the 2004 Asian tsunami; age and income level were contributing factors.


Mounting Losses: Women and Public Housing After Hurricane Katrina
by Jane M. Henrici, Ph.D., Allison Suppan Helmuth, and Rhea Fernandes (August 2010)

New Orleans public housing apartments five years ago were home to thousands of families. The residents held jobs, attended schools, and participated in New Orleans culture and its communities over the decades the developments stood. When the city’s levees ruptured and the brick apartments flooded, residents fled and found shelter in other towns and cities. The disaster emptied New Orleans and destroyed much of its housing. Five years later, market rates for renting private apartments have risen, nearly all of the old public apartments have been removed while the new remain under construction, and former residents of public housing are still displaced. For public housing tenants, most of whom were low-income African American women and their families, housing support in New Orleans has been transformed.


Women in the Wake of the Storm: Examining the Post-Katrina Realities of the Women of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast (Executive Summary)
by Avis Jones-DeWeever, Ph.D. (April 2008)


Women in the Wake of the Storm: Examining the Post-Katrina Realities of the Women of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast
by Avis Jones-DeWeever, Ph.D. (April 2008)

This report puts to paper the perspectives of women gathered through a series of semi-structured one-on-one and small group interviews with thirty-eight women in New Orleans and Slidell, Louisiana as well as in Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi. The women included in this study ranged in age from 19 to 66 and are of diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds, including Black, White, Creole, and Latina. Each woman contributed to their communities as volunteers, activists, community organizers, or professionals engaged in public service careers. Many, but not all, were involved with organizations that focused specifically on issues of concern to women. Each sought, in some way, not just to meet immediate needs in the communities where they work, but also to address the long-standing pre-Katrina structures of advantage and disadvantage that ultimately exacerbated the tragedy of the storm’s aftermath.

#D481, Report, 36 pages

The Women of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast: Multiple Disadvantages and Key Assets for Recovery Part II. Gender, Race, and Class in the Labor Market
by Erica Williams, Olga Sorokina, Avis Jones-DeWeever, Ph.D., and Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D. (July 2006)

This Briefing Paper is the second in a two-part series addressing the multiple disadvantages experienced by women, particularly women of color, in the areas hit by Katrina and Rita and in the areas in which many are now living. In Part 1, we discussed poverty among women and people of color in the Gulf Coast region and in the South more generally. In Part 2 we present data from before and after the storms, examine women’s role in the labor market in some detail prior to the hurricanes, and offer policy recommendations for reincorporating women into the workforce during and after the rebuilding period.

#D465, Briefing Paper, 32 pages

The Women of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast: Multiple Disadvantages and Key Assets for Recovery Part I. Poverty, Race, Gender and Class
by Gault, Barbara (September 2005)

by Barbara Gault, Ph.D., Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., Avis Jones-DeWeever, Ph.D., Misha Werschkul, and Erica Williams. This Briefing Paper, the first in a two-part series addressing the needs of the women of the Gulf Coast region, uncovers the multiple disadvantages experienced by women who lived in the areas affected by both the hurricanes, Katrina and Rita, and in many of the communities to which the evacuees are moving. It also outlines policy alternatives to help rebuild their lives in a way that will allow them to ultimately leave poverty behind.

#D464, Briefing Paper, 12 pages
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