The, Resilience in Survivors of Katrina (RISK) Project, has followed the same group of low-income, mostly black women from the years leading up to Hurricane Katrina and for the 10 years since the Hurricane. This research began in 2003 when 1,019 low-income, mostly African American young women from New Orleans enrolled in a study designed to increase educational attainment among community college students. My students, co-investigators and I measured participants’ economic status, social ties, and mental and physical health. Hurricane Katrina disrupted the study in August of 2005. However, it provided an extremely rare opportunity to study the consequences of a disaster for vulnerable individuals and their families. Hurricane Katrina not only exposed an unprecedented number of individuals to devastating trauma and loss, it disrupted social, economic, and other systems in ways that prolonged recovery efforts and undermined survivors’ wellbeing.
Difficulties such as these are often amplified in communities characterized by high levels of poverty and marginalization. Fewer than 5% of studies have pre-disaster information on survivors’ economic, social, health, and psychological status(Norris et al.,2002) and very few have longitudinal data on a wide range of aspects as well. Moreover, the inclusion of five-year post-disaster data, also a rarity, allows us to explore longer-term growth trajectories.