Rita’s Victims Wealthier Than Katrina’s

The area hit by Hurricane Rita had significant demographic advantages compared to that hit by Katrina, partially explaining the more successful evacuation of the former.

Rita’s Victims Wealthier Than Katrina’s (AP)

Hurricane Rita smashed into a region that is wealthier, more mobile and much less densely populated than the one devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Most of Rita’s victims are by no means wealthy. But they are less likely to live in poverty, more likely to own a car, and less likely to be a member of a minority group than were Katrina’s victims, according to an Associated Press analysis of census data.

Experts said the wealth and mobility of people in Rita’s path — combined with a new sense of urgency following Katrina — led to a more thorough evacuation. “They have cars,” said Carnot Nelson, a psychology professor at the University of South Florida. “They have a way to leave. It’s as simple as that.” Money and transportation were in short supply for many affected by Katrina. In densely populated New Orleans, more than 27 percent of the households had no access to a vehicle, according to 2000 census data. The family median income, at $32,300, was nearly $20,000 below the national average.

Having an automobile is certainly a major plus when trying to evacuate. Still, the major factors here almost have to be the fact that Rita made landfall as a much weaker storm and that Rita happened second. Had a Katrina-power storm hit a couple weeks earlier, I guarantee (to quote the late Justin Wilson) that New Orleans would have been evacuated much more thoroughly. Both the people themselves and their government were better prepared.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DL says:

    It may, more than money and class, represent the failure of the government to take responibility for the individual. There is no power for a politician if everyone is capable of taking care of theirself – at all class levels. Government, and regulation by bureaucratic agencies of the government, as well as their lawyer and eco-facist friends, breed terrible economic demands on the poorest among us. That is the real tragedy!

  2. buzz says:

    I saw a picture of a line of school buses leaving Houston. So people own their own school buses there? Or, just maybe, the city was busing people out of town who didnt own cars. Something that didnt happen in NO.