Missed Opportunities for Resilient (de)Growth

One paper I have been developing focuses on natural patterns of migration in the aftermath of major disaster events. This work is based on an address-to-address dataset I developed that tracks all adults with a credit history in the state of North Carolina. Datasets of this scale and detail are novel in post-disaster settings.

I presented on this topic last November at the 2022 ACSP conference, and I am scheduled to present it at the Population Association of America‘s 2023 conference in April. At ACSP, I focused on how an understanding of larger migration patterns could inform policy interventions to support de-growth from vulnerable areas. At PAA, I will focus more on the development and validation of the individual-level address-to-address dataset. This demonstrates the cross-disciplinary value of my work.

An extended abstract for this work is included below:

Anthropogenic climate change introduces a number of stressors that undermine the viability of communities across the United States representing millions of individuals. Considering that our global community is failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the time to make the adjustments necessary to avert catastrophic impacts of climate change is running out, we must consider strategies for living with and adapting to a more hostile world. This includes retreat from vulnerable areas to increase broader resilience.

Unfortunately, current government funded initiatives for managed retreat are insufficient and are primarily reactive rather than anticipatory. This heightens the importance of finding interventions to increase resilience that work within established patterns of habitation and movement. To that end, this paper analyzes the impact of disaster exposure and vulnerability on migration systems to demonstrate that we are replicating rather than reducing vulnerability.

For this analysis, I leverage a novel, individual-level dataset that I developed from data acquired from the credit agency TransUnion. This data has comprehensive coverage of eastern North Carolina. I track the address changes of over 500,000 individuals who moved in the aftermath of Hurricanes Matthew (2016) and Florence (2018). The results show that roughly 10% of individuals living within floodplains in this area moved within two-years of the aftermath of both storms, and that more than 80% of those individuals moved out of the floodplain over the same period. However, I also show that the majority of these movers were replaced by new in-migration to the floodplains, creating a condition where individuals may increase their resilience, but the overall community-level vulnerability remains constant.

These findings are discussed as a missed opportunity in the context of existing policies and related hazard mitigation plans, which rarely include provisions to support de-growth. Implications for reducing replacement migration, and the effect that could have on the housing market are considered. Finally, I suggest policy interventions that could support long-term de-growth by capitalizing on pre-existing migration systems.

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