Coping with the Effects of Natural Disasters in a Longitudinal Study
Rebecca Weiner, Mathematica Policy Research
Keywords: natural disasters, displaced populations, longitudinal research
The United States Department of Health and Human Services/Administration for Children and Families (ACF) initiated the Building Strong Families (BSF) project in multiple sites across the country to help interested and romantically involved unwed parents build stronger relationships, and thus enhance their child’s well being and their own future. In 2005, two of the largest and most devastating hurricanes in U.S. history, Katrina and Rita, hit the Gulf Coast in succession. The extensive physical damage left millions of people displaced in the aftermath. At the time of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, two sites for the BSF program were operating in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Houston, Texas.
The BSF programs enrolled parents around the time of their children’s birth, and most programs focused on recruiting lower income couples. During 2005, enrollment was underway and was temporarily suspended in Baton Rouge and Houston after the Hurricanes. Despite the Hurricanes’ effects on sample members, we attained a 79% response rate to the 15 Month Follow-Up interview from these sites. This presentation will focus on Mathematica’s successful methodologies to locate and interview sample members affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. These methods included using targeted mailings, tapping into participants’ networks of friends, family and neighbors, and redirecting locating resources into areas of the country not covered under the original data collection plan. Many of the strategies we employed in response to the Hurricanes informed data collection efforts for the 36 month follow-up interview.