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Women Still Especially Vulnerable, Five Years After Katrina

By Caroline Dobuzinskis and Jocelyn Fischer

Three new IWPR fact sheets, focusing on race, housing issues, and the impact of disasters on women, reflect the diverse range of data that IWPR has been collecting and analyzing since Hurricane Katrina hit. Immediately after the 2005 disaster struck, IWPR began conducting research along the Gulf Coast to determine the storm’s effect on the lives of women, and assess how post-disaster conditions for women and families might be improved.

The first factsheet, “Women in New Orleans: Race, Poverty, and Hurricane Katrina,” shows that fewer women and girls, especially African American women and girls, now live in the metropolitan area after Hurricane Katrina.  U.S. Census data reveal also that rates of poverty among girls and women have decreased in the metropolitan area, especially among African American women. This suggests that particularly vulnerable women have not been able to return.

IWPR’s second fact sheet, “Mounting Losses: Women and Public Housing after Hurricane Katrina,” discusses housing policy and the redevelopment of New Orleans’ “Big Four” public housing units. Affordable housing is important for low-income women and their families, but in New Orleans the old public housing apartments have been nearly all removed. Many new mixed-income units remain under construction and do not provide the units lost. For example, in the redesign of one complex, 1,550 public housing units that existed prior to Katrina are to be replaced with 740 units of mixed-income housing.

New Orleans Housing Unit

New Orleans cleanup continues years after Katrina.

Source: IWPR

The third fact sheet examines how women often suffer disproportionately in the wake of disasters. The fact sheet describes some of the factors that lead to this result: women are more likely to be living in poverty, may have increased childcare responsibilities, and may encounter violence.

A new IWPR report, based on a four-year project with more than 200 ethnographic interviews conducted in Baton Rouge, Houston, and New Orleans with women who were residents of New Orleans public housing at the time of Hurricane Katrina, will be released in 2011. IWPR’s earlier reports released in 2005, 2006, and 2008 can be found here.

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