Thursday, November 17, 2005

Even a Katrina Can Blow Some Good ...

Hughes (2005) points out that there is “a big difference between the Chicago fire of 1871 and the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and the New Orleans flood of 2005. The first two cities were on the rise when their disasters struck and rebuilding was simply the continuation of boom times.

“New Orleans has been declining for decades and was an impoverished place rife with dysfunction, violence and bleak prospects for its poorest residents. Admittedly, NOLA's decline had a veneer of charm that took a hurricane to remove, exposing the miserable reality beneath and behind.”

Hughes suggests that “Older American cities - and NOLA was one of the few in the Sunbelt - have become warehouses for people whose prospects would be brighter in other places. But immediate obligations, lack of resources and information, and plain old inertia anchor people in places that are declining.”

“If I had the budget, I'd track the 200,000 or so poor and near-poor people who've found refuge in economically healthier places like Houston, Denver and Seattle. I bet that two or three years from now, most of those folks will be earning more money in better jobs with their kids attending better schools in safer neighborhoods than they were in New Orleans.”

Hughes concludes that “The lesson of the Mayflower, the frontier, the Dust Bowl and probably Katrina is that the eventual happy ending for poor people comes from relocation more than rebuilding.”

Hughes, Mark Alan “Even A Katrina Can Blow Some Good” September 13, 2005


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