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College of Arts & Sciences
Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute

Equity of Individual Assistance in Hurricane Katrina

Lindsey R. Barnes

Advisor:  Dr. Susan L. Cutter



Presidential disaster declarations provide assistance to communities and individuals affected by disasters and have been the subject of numerous research efforts. The individual assistance program, which is dependent on the receipt of a presidential disaster declaration, has received little attention from the academic community. While numerous research efforts have broadly considered the equitable distribution of disaster aid, there has been little discussion about how communities' social vulnerability should be weighed and considered in the issuance of individual assistance. This research uses spatial statistics and GIS-based modeling methods to examine the relationships between individual assistance application rates, levels of individual assistance payments, social vulnerability, physical exposure, and rates of reported damages. Due to the widespread impacts of Hurricane Katrina and the variation in social vulnerability of the affected populations, this thesis examines these relationships through a case study of Hurricane Katrina. Results suggest that physical exposure, rates of reported damage, and social vulnerability are related to levels of housing assistance and other needs assistance payments. Results also indicate there are both social and locational inequities in application rates and levels of payments in the study area. This research contributes new understanding about the equitable distribution of disaster aid following Hurricane Katrina and identifies areas where further research is needed.