Discontinuation of Hurricane Katrina Evacuee Data

  1. Why did BLS add questions about Hurricane Katrina evacuees to the Current Population Survey (CPS)?

    Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf coast in late August 2005. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau realized that the CPS—a large, well-designed, monthly household survey—could provide timely and useful information about some people affected by this major natural disaster. The questions to identify evacuees were first asked in the CPS in October 2005—only about a month and a half after the storm—and the first results were published in early November. Since that time, the estimates of the employment status of Katrina evacuees have been published monthly in the Employment Situation news release and made available on the BLS website. 

  2. Why is the BLS discontinuing the collection of Hurricane Katrina evacuee data in October 2006?

    Asking these questions in the CPS is not a good method for studying the population of Katrina evacuees over the long term:

    • The same survey questions to identify people as evacuees were asked every month. Because households are in the survey for several months, this repetition became redundant and confusing. In fact, some individuals were identified as evacuees in one month but not in the next.
    • With the passage of time, the chances increase that people who evacuated their homes because of other hurricanes and disasters would mistakenly answer that they were Katrina evacuees. Census Bureau interviewers indicated that this was sometimes a problem for respondents.
    • Because the CPS sample does not specifically target evacuees, a relatively small number were interviewed each month. During the period the questions were included, in an average month, 495 individuals, representing about 1.1 million evacuees, responded to the survey. A larger sample of evacuees would be required to conduct more detailed demographic and labor force analyses for the group.
    • Finally, the relationship between the storm’s effects and the employment status of evacuees is likely to deteriorate over time as other factors affecting labor market activity—such as educational attainment, work experience, and local economic conditions—come into play. Without additional information about evacuees’ specific situations, the CPS employment status information becomes less useful over time for assessing the direct impact of the storm.
  3. Does BLS have any other plans to gather additional information about Hurricane Katrina evacuees? 

    At this time, BLS does not have plans to conduct additional surveys of Hurricane Katrina evacuees through the CPS. BLS will continue to publish monthly employment and unemployment data from its other programs for the states and local areas affected by the storm. The most recent news release for regions and states can be found at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/laus.toc.htm. The most recent news release for metropolitan areas is available at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/metro.toc.htm