Post-Hurricane Katrina
Research and Recovery Work

Frederick D. Weil
Department of Sociology
Louisiana State University

email: fweil@lsu.edu

"Reconstituting Community: Paths to Recovery
in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina."

(Funded by the National Science Foundation.)

A comparison of communities in New Orleans & surrounding areas since Hurricane Katrina. How did communities recover, and what does recovery mean? We look at repopulation, rebuilding, emotional well-being or stress, evaluations of leaders, theological views, and hopes or fears about the future. We are especially interested to see what role social capital (civic engagement, community cohesion, social support, social networks, community organizations) plays, compared to economic and material factors.

The study includes a survey of area residents (N=7,000), conducted door-to-door and face-to-face, as well as by internet, plus a survey of neighborhood association presidents (N=70), and videotaped interviews with a wide variety of community leaders and members (N=ca. 125). We have worked closely with more than 200 community organizations, which has given us a more intimate view of recovery than would otherwise have been possible. The analysis combines survey, GIS (geographical information systems), ethnographic, and organizational analyses in a multi-method, multi-level framework.

Initial Findings

We finished our data collection in 2011 and have been analyzing the data. As of late 2013, our analyses show the beneficial impact of social capital, civic engagement, and community organization on:

  • Repopulation, as measured by the U.S. Census and the U.S. Postal Service,
  • Rebuilding and Recovery, as measured by our resident survey,
  • Blight Reduction, as measured by the U.S. Postal Service and the Department of Housing and Urban Development,
  • Stress Reduction, Sense of Well-Being, and Optimism about Recovery, as measured by our resident survey,
  • Reduction of Violent Crime, as measured by the New Orleans Police Department.

Basic survey results, broken down by subgroup, here

Watch this website for reports and publications of our findings, as well as progress reports on the documentary video we are making, and related work.

Publications, Information, and Background

  • Publications and Reports
    • Weil, Frederick. 2012. “Can Citizens Affect Urban Policy? Blight Reduction in Post-Katrina New Orleans.”  Paper presented at the annual meetings of the American Political Science Association, New Orleans, August 31, here.
    • Weil, Frederick. 2011. "Rise of Community Organizations, Citizen Engagement, and New Institutions," in Amy Liu, Roland V. Anglin, Richard Mizelle, and Allison Plyer, editors, Resilience and Opportunity: Lessons from the U.S. Gulf Coast after Katrina and Rita, pp. 201-219. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press. here.
    • Patterson, Olivia, Frederick D. Weil, and Kavita Patel. 2010. “The Role of Community in Disaster Response: Conceptual Models.” Population Research and Policy Review 29, 2:127-141. DOI 10.1007/s11113-009-9133-x. here.
    • "State of the New Orleans Music Community Reports" with Sweet Home New Orleans, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and see the Music Community section of this website.
    • The Jewish Community of Greater New Orleans 2007 Community Survey Report, and see the Jewish Federation section of this website.
    • See other sections of this website for more reports.
  • Press on our research
    • New York Times, May 14, 2013, "Celebrating, in Spite of the Risk" (on our findings about Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs)
    • The Advocate, May 20, 2013, "Second-line organizations not to blame for violence" (on our findings about Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs)
    • Gambit, Sep 9, 2010, "Mainstream Media Doesn't Care About Black People: A Kanyesque Teachable Moment About Second Line Culture Bias" (on our findings about Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs)
    • Wall Street Journal, Sept 2, 2010, "New Orleans, 5 Years On"
    • New York Times, September 1, 2010, "Katrina, Five Years Later"
    • Washington Post, August 29, 2010, "New Orleans five years later"
    • New Orleans Times Picayune, August 29, 2010, "Katrina inspires New Orleans to find its voice"
    • International Business Times, August 29, 2010, "New Orleans resurgent"
    • Los Angeles Times, August 29, 2010, "Five years after Katrina, New Orleans still caught between storms. Rebuilding efforts have turned it into a hopeful start-up city, but troubling new - and old - problems abound."
    • New York Times, August 27, 2010, "On Anniversary of Katrina, Signs of Healing"
    • NPR, August 27, 2010, "Five Years On, New Orleans Musicians Still Struggling"
    • Offbeat, August 27, 2010, "Struggling to Make Ends Meet is the New Norm" (on the music & cultural community)
    • MSNBC, August 26, 2010, "Gulf Coast could be poised for comeback, Downbeat perception doesn’t match upbeat indicators"
    • New Orleans Times-Picayune, August 26, 2010, "New Orleans musicians hurting 5 years after Katrina, study finds"
    • Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2010, "The state of working musicians in New Orleans: 'Half the gigs ... and the work pays less'"
    • USA Today, Aug 15, 2010, "Gulf oil spill adds facet to Katrina recovery"
  • Preliminary Results, before data collection was complete
    • Broken down by selected social groups - as charts (8/2009)
    • An Analytical Summary of Results, here (6/2008)
  • A "first cut" overview for the documentary film we hope to make, here
  • A Slide Show Overview here (4/2012) -
  • Video of a talk I gave in March 2010 at Purdue, here
    • (The link opens a video viewer in another window. It's safe, if your system asks)
  • Initial Proposals & Project Descriptions
    • Proposal to the National Science Foundation, August 2007 (accepted)
    • Proposal to the National Science Foundation, February 2008
    • An Initial Description, from May 2006, here.

Location of Respondents' Pre-Katrina Residence (partial)
Sample Size is N = ca. 7,000

More maps here

[Blue shades are flooding extent]
More maps here

Survey Questionnaires

  • On Paper, here. Leaders can print this out and duplicate as many copies as they need, to distribute to their membership.
    • (See bottom of this page for an OLD version of the questionnaire)
  • On the Internet, here. Members can go here to take the survey on the internet. [They can choose versions for several Parishes.]
  • Companion Survey Questionnaires -
    • Organizational Survey of Neighborhood Associations, here. Survey now in the field in collaboration with NPN, the Neighborhoods Partnership Network, as part of their Capacity College. To be merged with surveys of individuals in a multi-level framework.
    • Organizational Survey of Churches, here. Interviews of church leaders and administrators, asking about their recovery strategies. We will seek to survey their congregations with our social survey and merge the individual and organizational surveys in a multi-level framework.
    • GIS Housing Survey, here. Data collected on PDAs with GPS locating unit, with accompanying photographs. Augmented by video imagery with GPS collected from vehicle. To be merged with surveys of individuals.
  • Survey Questionnaires from Related Projects (see other sections of this website) -
    • Contractor Fraud Survey, here.
    • NOLA YURP Survey, the Young Newcomers to New Orleans. Main questionnaire here; questionnaire of prospective YURPs, here).

Samples - for a fuller list of organizations we have worked with, see here. In all cases, we give survey results back to the groups we work with.

  • The Catholic Churches of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, in Orleans & surrounding parishes,
  • The Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, & Southern Baptist churches in the Greater New Orleans area,
  • A number of other Baptist & A.M.E. churches,
  • The Jewish Communities of Greater New Orleans & Baton Rouge, through the Jewish Federations & Synagogues,
  • Chalmette, in St. Bernard Parish,
  • The Vietnamese of New Orleans East (photos here),
  • Several dozen (and counting) Neighborhood Associations,
  • Outreach with Acorn, LouisianaRebuilds.Info, the Neighborhoods Partnership Network, PolicyLink, and many other community and advocacy organizations,
  • In cooperation with the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which sponsored the survey on their online Neighborhood Forums (here).
  • Clients of Social Service organizations and community centers,
  • Evacuees who have not (yet) returned to New Orleans, including residents of FEMA trailer villages and living in other cities (see photos of data collection at Renaissance Village here),
  • New Orleans Musicians, Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs (data collection pics here and here and here), & Mardi Gras Indians, in cooperation with Sweet Home New Orleans, WWOZ public radio, and the Roots of Music program,
  • Young newcomers to the city who are engaged in entrepreneurial and social justice activities, in partnership with NOLA YURP (Young Urban Rebuilding Professionals).
  • More samples will follow.

More Selected Results & Background

  • Results, here (5/2009)
  • A preliminary analysis of whether Social Capital reduces Violent Crime, here (4/2009)
  • Selected Maps, here.
  • Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans: many results here
  • Preliminary comparison of four different communities, here (5/2008)
  • Preliminary selected findings from early, nonrepresentative sample, here (Data collected second half of 2006.)
  • Causal Diagram - Preliminary results & analyses support this formulation.
  • Operationalization of variables.

Pictures of Data Collection. In all cases, we give survey results back to the groups we work with.

  • At the Annual Social Aid & Pleasure Club Task Force Picnic, May 30, 2009; photos of interviewing here. Photos of the Nine Times SAPC Second Lining to the Hot 8 Brass Band at the picnic, here.
  • In Village de l'Est in the Vietnamese community, in partnership with Mary Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church and Community Development Corporation. Photos here.
  • In Treme and the 7th Ward. Data collection in February-April 2009; photos here. We partnered with the 7th Ward Neighborhood Center, the "Porch," and other community organizations in these classic New Orleans neighborhoods.
  • Young Men Olympians Social Aid & Pleasure Club, at their clubhouse in Central City. Data collection in January 2009; photos here. We put on a party with the YMO, who celebrated their 125th anniversary this year, with a meal & brass band.
  • The Roots of Music, after-school music program for middle-school students. Students took questionnaires home to their parents & returned them completed; summer 2008. Info, videos, photos here; more photos here and here.
  • Acorn's Community Center in the Lower 9th Ward; New Orleans East. Data collection in April 2008; photos here.
  • Pontchartrain Park & Gentilly Woods (Pontilly). Data collection in January 2008; photos here. We worked with the Pontilly Neighborhood Association, who brought in 40 law student volunteers from around the country.
  • Renaissance Village, Baker, LA, the largest FEMA trailer site. Data collection in July 2007; photos here. We organized a party with resident leaders, featuring dinner & a brass band. (We worked with the residents from the village's opening after the storm until its closing in 2008. For instance, we put in a cafe, which became a community center.)

Resources & Background for Community Leaders, here - [these materials were available for community leaders during the period of data collection]

  • What you can learn from the survey, here.
  • A note to leaders describing the project, here
  • If you lead a team of volunteers who want to participate, here
  • Announcements of the survey for Churches or Neighborhood Associations that can be used in bulletins, newsletters, handouts, emails, websites, etc.
  • Easy Ideas for distributing the Survey, here
  • A Question and Answer Sheet (FAQs) for survey respondents, here.

Research Partners

  • Sociology
    • Troy Blanchard, Matthew Lee, & Edward Shihadeh, LSU Department of Sociology
  • GIS (Geographical Information Systems: computer mapping)
    • Barrett Kennedy, Architecture, Director of LSU’s CADGIS Lab
    • John Pine, LSU Department Geography, and Director of Disaster Science and Management (emeritus)
    • Andrew Curtis & Jackie Mills, USC Department of Geography
  • Organization Surveys
  • Partners in Other Areas
    • Steven Bingler, Director, Concordia, LLC; Planning Coordinator of The Unified New Orleans Plan (UNOP).
    • Kavita Patel, MD, Public Health, The Brookings Institution, formerly, White House; Sen. Kennedy's staff, Rand Corporation.
    • Dominique Duval-Diop, Kalima Rose, & Annie Clark, PolicyLink.
    • Jordan Hirsch, Sweet Home New Orleans.
    • Deborah Cotton, LouisianaRebuilds.info.
    • Nathan Rothstein, NOLA YURP Initiative.
    • Barbara Johnson & Jessica White, 504ward
    • David Banks, Statistics, Duke University.
    • Daniel Aldrich, Purdue Political Science


      *(An OLD version of our questionnaire is here. This should NOT be used for current interviews. It shows the question texts of some of our earlier results.)

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All original material copyright (c) 2005-2013, by Frederick Weil, all rights reserved.
May be cited for scholarly purposes with attribution, except where noted.

Some geocoding courtesy of USC WebGIS Services.