Environmental Change and Migration: The Impact of Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast Migration System

Eugenio Paglino , Bocconi University

Climate change is likely to trigger processes which will have an impact on population distribution. One of these processes is the increase in the number of extremely intense tropical cyclones. Several studies analysed Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, finding that while these two Hurricanes triggered massive evacuation, the population of the affected area rebounded mostly thanks to inflows from nearby unaffected counties. This work investigates the effects of Hurricane Sandy on the migration system of the East-Coast counties it affected. It uses data from the Internal Revenue Service annual county-level migration flows to test a set of hypotheses formulated by looking at previous studies, comparing the migration system of the pre-disaster period (2010-2011) to the one of the post-disaster period (2012-2013). I find that both the initial outflow and the subsequent recovery inflow are significantly smaller than they had been after Katrina. More precisely, when comparing affected and nearby counties, it appears that the former saw a decrease in inflows after Sandy compared to the latter. Based on these findings, I argue that Katrina and Sandy belong to two different categories of natural disaster when looking at their impact on migration. Katrina represents a disruptive type, with temporary depopulation followed by sustained recovery, while Sandy was manageable, with minor changes in migration trends, possibly leading to a decrease in net migration. Since these two types of disaster require different policy interventions, the present work, after having described Sandy's and Katrina's differential impact, tries to sketch possible policy responses.

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 Presented in Session P11. Migration in a Changing Climate