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How did Hurricane Katrina impact New Orleans divorce rates?

Nearly a decade after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and surrounding areas comes information on some of the long-term social and economic impacts of the storm on the city's residents. This includes marriage and divorce rates.

The National Bureau of Economic Research just released a report based on a study of tax returns filed between 1999 and 2010 by people who were New Orleans residents when the storm hit in the late summer of 2005.

Researchers found that, not surprisingly, New Orleans residents' income and employment dropped in the two years immediately following Katrina. Wages fell $1,600 in 2005 and approximately $2,200 the next year. In 2006, 2.7 percent more residents reported that they'd earned no income than those in cities not impacted by the storm. In 2007, that percentage improved only slightly to 2.3 percent.

The New Orleans unemployment rate rose by more than a quarter in 2005, based on the number of people who filed for unemployment benefits. The following year, another 11 percent of residents filed for unemployment. That additional increase is believed to be related to the unemployment assistance programs provided by the federal government to help those who lost jobs and businesses because of the hurricane.

With all of this financial hardship, it would be expected that divorce rates in the area would rise. Financial problems can put a strain on any marriage. However, interestingly, the NBER study found that divorce rates remained unchanged in the aftermath of the tragedy. In fact, in 2005 and 2006, more New Orleans residents were newlyweds than before Katrina hit.

These numbers could reflect a variety of things. Often, tragedy makes people place more value on their long-term relationships and realize how much they need their significant other. It's also possible that people in New Orleans just had too many other pressing things to deal with, like rebuilding their homes businesses and lives. Maybe some people, no matter how unhappy they were, just didn't want to add the stress of a divorce to the mix.

Louisiana family law attorneys who can give couples the options of mediation and collaborative divorce can help people get a divorce without the stress and expense of fighting it out in court. As long as couples are willing to negotiate and work together to end their marriage under terms that are acceptable to both of them, one of these options may be for them.

Source: The Times-Picayune, "Tax return data shows Hurricane Katrina had little effect on income, no effect on divorce in New Orleans" Jed Lipinski, Dec. 04, 2014

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