Flooding and Inequality

FEMA says 0.3% of properties in Chicago are at risk of flooding. New data reveals that in fact this is closer to 13% of properties because of how FEMA undercounts canals, creeks, and heavy rain. Source — The New York Times
Hurricane Laura battered Cameron Parish, Louisiana in 2020. 94% of homes here are at risk of severe flooding according to new data. Source — The Daily Advertiser
Claire Adams, 88, who cannot walk, was trapped in rising water that reached her neck before help came in through a window. Source — The New York Times

Those who can’t afford housing are also most likely to be uninsured

The Path Forward

Prioritize flood insurance for those who would have the hardest time bouncing back — There are two ways to think about flood insurance, given a limited pool of money — (1) we can dedicate more funds to people with more expensive properties, or (2) we can dedicate more funds to people who are in greater need of those funds. While FEMA’s flood insurance often focuses on the wealthiest homes , these tend to also be owned by those with the most funds to bounce back. Policymakers in Houston tested a program in 2019 that focused more on equity to support those struggling with floods and had tremendous benefits to communities.

Lessons from Katrina

Hurricane Katrina is the clearest example of flooding and inequality. Katrina disproportionately impacted Black communities, as the countless photos of families on roofs so desperately showed. The recovery also disproportionately benefited White communities — Between 2005 and 2013, median income rose by only 7% for the city’s Black residents to $25,102; but it rose by much more for White residents — by 23% to $60,553. This was in large part due to the way homes were valued and insured in New Orleans.

Residents in New Orleans wave American flags from their rooftops amidst the flooding of Hurricane Katrina in 2004. Nearly 1,000 people died. Source — Slate

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Jeremy Ney

Jeremy Ney

Google, MIT, Harvard, UPenn, Federal Reserve, now writing about inequality at AmericanInequality.substack.com