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In recent years, there have been a number of catastrophic disasters. Recovery from these disasters takes years, if not decades, and more effort must be focused on strengthening local capacity to plan for long-term development and reduce vulnerability to future disaster events. This research will examine why communities facing the same disaster recover differentially and determine pathways to successful disaster recovery in the research setting of New Orleans neighborhoods affected over six years ago by Hurricane Katrina. Previous individual case studies in this area suggest that there are a variety of pathways to recovery. However, a broader cross-case comparison is necessary in order to generalize these pathways into a recovery framework. Specifically, this study seeks to determine what pre-disaster and post-disaster causal factors, either alone or in combination, were important to recovery following Hurricane Katrina. We performed a cross-case comparative study of neighborhood-level recovery in New Orleans using Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA). QCA was selected due to its ability to analyze both quantitative and qualitative data for smaller-n case studies. Furthermore, it retains sensitivity to interactions between conditions. Based upon our prior work, which used the Delphi method to determine indicators of recovery and suspected causal conditions of recovery, we collected data through publically-available sources, including the U.S. Census, the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, and previously completed studies for eighteen neighborhoods impacted by Hurricane Katrina. We used fuzzy-set QCA (fsQCA) to analyze combinatorial causal conditions of pre-disaster community factors and post-disaster actions and found multiple pathways to recovery, as measured by population return to the neighborhood. For example, economic capacity is nearly sufficient for recovery, but a combination of low social vulnerability, post-disaster community participation, a high proportion of pre-WWII housing stock and high amounts of post-disaster funds also led to recovery. This research links pre-disaster measures of resilience and vulnerability to recovery outcomes and, through cross-case comparison, generates results that will enable researchers to develop a theory of sustainable community recovery following a disaster. In addition, these results will allow communities to focus development efforts on key areas in order to reduce vulnerability.

Jordan, E., Javernick-Will, A., and Amadei, B. (2012). “A Qualitative Comparative Analysis of Neighborhood Recovery following Hurricane Katrina.” Engineering Project Organization Conference. Rheden, The Netherlands,.