Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa


  • Davia C. Downey (a1) and Laura A. Reese (a2)

This paper constitutes a follow-up to an argument made during the late fall of 2005 that posited that many of the approaches and responses to sudden natural disasters might be effectively applied to areas experiencing more chronic economic decay. Using census, budgetary, and political data, including an analysis of planning and development documents, the paper addresses the following research questions:

What were the economic and social trajectories of Detroit and New Orleans prior to their respective disasters?

How did the responses to the hurricane impact New Orleans?

Despite the attention given to New Orleans, why do current conditions differ little from Detroit?

The findings suggest that Detroit and New Orleans were clearly both highly distressed cities, with large minority populations and significant inequality prior to Katrina, although Detroit’s situation was arguably more severe. Significant media attention and investment in New Orleans appeared to follow in the wake of the hurricane. However, looking at federal and state investment in context suggests that it was not as high as might have been expected and implementation delays may well have lessened its impact. It is not at all clear that the response in New Orleans changed its economic trajectory much beyond that of Detroit, suggesting that the response to sudden disaster might not have aided the slow death of Detroit.

Corresponding author
* Corresponding author: Professor Laura A. Reese, Global Urban Studies and Political Science, Michigan State University, 447 Berkey Hall, East Lansing, MI 48202. E-mail:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Joshua Akers (2012). Separate and Unequal: The Consumption of Public Education in Post-Katrina New Orleans. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 36(1): 2948.

Kristen Buras (2011). ‘It’s all About the Dollars’: Charter Schools, Educational Policy, and the Racial Market in New Orleans. Harvard Educational Review, 81(2): 296330.

Peter F. Burns , and Matthew O. Thomas (2004). Governors and the Development Regime in New Orleans. Urban Affairs Review, 39: 791812.

Peter F. Burns , and Matthew O. Thomas (2006). The Failure of the Non Regime: How Katrina Exposed New Orleans as a Regimeless City. Urban Affairs Review, 41(4): 517527.

Thomas J. Durant , and Dawood Sultan (2008). The Impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Race and Class Divide in America. In M. Marable and K. Clarke (Eds.), Seeking Higher Ground, pp. 191202. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Peter Eisinger (2014). Is Detroit Dead? Journal of Urban Affairs, 36(1): 112.

Christina Finch , Christopher T. Emrich , and Susan L. Cutter (2010). Disaster Disparities and Differential Recovery in New Orleans. Population and Environment, 31(4): 179202.

Elizabeth Fussell (2007). Constructing New Orleans, Constructing Race: A Population History of New Orleans. The Journal of America History, December: 846855.

Elizabeth Fussell , Narayan Sastry , and Mark VanLandingham (2010). Race, Socioeconomic Status and Return Migration to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Population and Environment, 31: 2042.

George Galster (2012). Driving Detroit. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

David B. Grusky , and Emily Ryo (2006). Did Katrina Recalibrate Attitudes Toward Poverty and Inequality? A Test of the “Dirty Little Secret” Hypothesis. Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, 3(1): 5982.

James H. Lewis , and David K. Hamilton (2011). Race and Regionalism: The Structure of Local Government and Racial Disparity. Urban Affairs Review, 47(3): 349384.

John R. Logan , Brian J. Stults , and R. Farley (2004). Segregation of Minorities in the Metropolis: Two Decades of Change. Demography, 41: 122.

Robert B Olshansky . (2006). Planning after Hurricane Katrina. Journal of the American Planning Association, 72(2): 147153.

Paula M. Poindexter , Laura Smith , and Don Heider (2003). Race and Ethnicity in Local Television News: Framing, Story Assignments, and Source Selections. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 47(4): 524536.

Michael E Porter . (2003). The Economic Performance of Regions. Regional Studies, 37(6/7): 549578.

Laura Ann Reese , Gary Sands , and Mark Skidmore (2014). Memo from Motown: Is Austerity Here to Stay? Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy, and Society, 7(1): 99118.

Barbara Reskin (2012). The Race Discrimination System. Annual Review of Sociology, 38: 1735.

Patrick Sharkey (2007). Survival and Death in New Orleans: An Empirical Look at the Human Impact of Katrina. Journal of Black Studies, 37: 482501.

Mark Souther (2007). The Disneyfication of New Orleans: The French Quarter as Façade in a Divided City. Journal of American History, 94: 804811.

Daphne Spain (1979). Race Relations and Residential Segregation in New Orleans: Two Centuries of Paradox. Annals, American Academy of Political and Social Science, January: 8296.

Kathryn A Sweeney . (2006). The Blame Game: Racialized Responses to Hurricane Katrina. Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, 3(1): 161174.

James Vanderleeuw , and Baodong Liu (2002). Political Empowerment, Mobilization, and Black-Voter Rolloff. Urban Affairs Review, 37(3): 380396.

Kenneth F Warren . (2008). Encyclopedia of U.S. Campaigns, Elections, and Electoral Behavior. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

William L Waugh Jr.. (2006). Economic Development and Reconstruction on the Gulf after Katrina. Economic Development Quarterly, 20: 211218.

Robert K. Whelan , Alma H. Young , and Mickey Lauria (1994). Urban Regimes and Racial Politics in New Orleans. Journal of Urban Affairs, 16: 121.

Alford A Young . (2006). Unearthing Ignorance: Hurricane Katrina and the Re-envisioning of the Urban Black Poor. Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, 3(1): 203213.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race
  • ISSN: 1742-058X
  • EISSN: 1742-0598
  • URL: /core/journals/du-bois-review-social-science-research-on-race
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 11
Total number of PDF views: 37 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 329 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 3rd January 2017 - 19th September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.