After the devastation that Hurricane Harvey caused in the Houston area and other parts of Texas in August 2017, the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston initiated a five-year survey to understand the long-term experiences of people impacted by Hurricane Harvey and other natural disasters. The goals of these surveys were to better comprehend Houstonians’ preparedness for and experiences with natural disasters and to identify how individuals, community organizations, government and private sector leaders tried to mitigate the consequences of current and future natural disasters and other types of severe weather events affecting Houston and its surrounding areas.
The Storm That Changed Houston: Reflections on Houstonians' Preparedness and Resiliency on Hurricane Harvey's Fifth Anniversary
The report examines the primary findings from the last five years of study, starting with who was impacted by Harvey and the main damages it caused. Researchers also analyzed the effects that Harvey had on respondents’ support for various policy initiatives to mitigate flooding and the way Houstonians prepare and cope with natural disasters.
- 57% of the respondents from the Greater Houston area were affected by Harvey. Hurricane Harvey caused the highest percentage of losses from damage to property (43%), compared to other natural disaster that have hit Greater Houston since 2004. Ethno-racial minorities were especially affected by Harvey and its aftermath.
Support for flood mitigation policies over time:
- The policy interventions proposed to mitigate the impact of natural disasters that garnered over 90% support among Houstonians were:
- the construction of a new reservoir to protect west Houston;
- new building codes requiring homes in flood-prone areas to be elevated;
- greater restrictions on construction in flood plains; and
- preventing development on native prairies and wetlands in western and northwestern portions of Harris County.
- There was little variation in support among households suffering losses during Harvey compared to those who did not, such as:
- support for mitigation policies was stronger among households who were not directly impacted by Harvey; and
- early on respondents who suffered losses were more likely to support a program aimed at buying homes that flooded; but the difference disappeared by Wave 4 of our survey.
Preparedness, recovery, and adaptive capacity strategies before and after Harvey:
- Of those households affected by Hurricane Harvey, 82% report having completely or mostly recovered five years later.
- Houstonians are resilient, but vulnerable populations fare worse when natural disasters hit. Overall, vulnerable populations in the Greater Houston area had lower percentages of complete recovery after Hurricane Harvey.
- In terms of preparedness, differences between those affected by Harvey and those not affected are larger when it comes to getting home damage protection (14.6 percentage point difference), alternative power supplies (13.6 percentage point difference), and by learning evacuation plans for the area (10.2 percentage point difference)
- The racial-ethnic groups that reported more FEMA assistance applications right after Hurricane Harvey in 2017 were Black and African Americans with 40.1% and Hispanics with 28.2%.
- Those who have completely or mostly recovered from the effects of Harvey are more likely to have flood insurance (31.1%) than those that have recovered a little or not at all (18.5%). We also observe a systematic increase in respondents with flood insurance of since 2017 (before Harvey) to 2020.
2022 Report: Social Vulnerability & Natural Disasters: 5 Years After Hurricane Harvey
This report covered the fourth wave of the Hobby School Harvey Survey, which was fielded between December 22, 2021, and March 2, 2022. The survey included a representative sample of Texas residents with an over-sample of residents from the Greater Houston area. In total, 2,587 respondents aged 18 and older completed our survey about their experiences during natural disasters, including Hurricane Harvey. Our findings help identify vulnerable geographic areas and populations, providing relevant information to local officials and policymakers in charge of designing and planning policies and procedures to prepare, respond, and recover from natural disasters.
We relied on the CDC’s 2018 Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) to frame our analysis of vulnerable populations and the impact of natural disasters in Texas. Our key findings show that:
- The natural disasters that resulted in more damages or negative effects for Texans, especially damages to property and residence, were Hurricane Harvey (around 13%) and Winter Storm Uri (around 20%). However, compared to other disasters, respondents reported less assistance requests from federal and state agencies--such as FEMA--and higher recovery rates from the effects of these natural disasters.
- More respondents, both vulnerable (around 38%) and non-vulnerable (around 36%), suffered more damages to their residence than any other type of damage, regardless the type of vulnerability.
- Nearly 69% of respondents reported having prepared for the 2021 hurricane season. Most respondents prepared by stockpiling food and other supplies (45%) and by getting alternative power supplies (28%). However, Whites and Blacks had the lower preparation rates.
- Vulnerable populations were slower to recover, if at all, compared to non-vulnerable populations. However, Experiences of people in the different vulnerability dimensions were not the same. People with HCDVs don't necessarily need the same assistance as people with MSLVs because their experiences can be different.
- In general, after major natural disasters, insured respondents were nearly 10% more likely to recover than those uninsured. Similarly, not vulnerable respondents were over 5% more likely to recover than those vulnerable.
- Even though we find higher rates of damages by Hurricane Harvey and other natural disasters among respondents living in the Greater Houston area, especially along the Gulf Coast, we found higher rates of complete recovery (between 6% and 12% higher), compared to those affected in the rest of Texas
2020 Report: The Impact of Hurricane Harvey: Experience, Recovery and Resilience
Three Years Later
The third wave of the panel survey was conducted between May 20 and June 23, 2020 and involved a representative sample of 1,065 residents in Brazoria, Fort Bend, Harris and Montgomery counties. They responded to questions about their experience during Hurricane Harvey, the extent of their recovery, support for policies aimed at mitigating the future impact of severe weather events in the region, environmental concerns, and confidence in elected officials’ abilities to prevent future flooding in the Houston area.
Key Findings of the 2020 Hurricane Harvey Survey
- Close to 20% of the respondents who were displaced by the storm are still in temporary housing.
- Among the two-fifths of those whose residence was damaged by Hurricane Harvey, two-thirds (67.7%) needed to rebuild or modify part or all of their property.
- More than 90% of the respondents support mitigation projects including elevating homes in flood-prone areas, widening bayous and banning construction in floodplains.
- The creation of a new reservoir drew support from 93%, which is about eight percentage points higher than found in a survey completed shortly after the storm in 2017.
- More than three-quarters (78%) of the respondents support a home buyback program for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.
- One-fifth (20.7%) of the respondents whose properties suffered damages because of Harvey Hurricane received and accepted a buyout offer from the government, 10.2% received an offer but did not take it, while 69.2% of them did not receive a buyout offer.
- A majority (52.5%) of the respondents said they were somewhat or very confident city and county officials know how to prevent the negative impact of future flooding.
- Two-thirds (67.2%) of the respondents were notably worried about global warming, with 29.7% very worried and 37.5% somewhat worried, respectively. In contrast, only about a third (32.8%) were either not very worried (17.3%) or not at all worried (15.5%).
- Three-fifths (58.4%) believe that global warming is caused mostly by human activities while two-fifths (38.3%) believe global warming is caused mostly by natural changes in the environment.
Read the 2020 report.
Hurricane Harvey 2020 Figures and Tables
Hurricane Harvey 2020 Technical File
Media Release 2020
2018 Survey: The Impact of Hurricane Harvey One Year Later
The second wave of the five-year panel survey measuring the impact of Hurricane Harvey was conducted between June 25 and July 31, 2018, using both landline and cell phone numbers. The 1073 respondents in Harris, Fort Bend, Brazoria and Montgomery Counties included people who participated in the initial survey and first-time respondents. The sample of persons from the initial survey was chosen from areas that received two or more feet of rainwater during Harvey.
Hurricane Harvey Survey 2018 Highlights
Hurricane Harvey Survey 2018 Figures and Tables
Hurricane Harvey Survey 2018 Methodology
Hurricane Harvey Survey 2018 Media Release
2018 Survey: Harris County Flood Control District Bond Election
This survey focuses on questions surrounding Harris County’s special election to issue bonds to fund flood mitigation projects. The special election will be held on August 25, 2018, with early voting beginning on August 8. The survey was conducted between June 25 and July 31, 2018, using both landline and cell phone numbers. It included both people who participated in the initial survey and first-time respondents.
Bond Election 2018 Survey Highlights
Bond Election 2018 Survey Cross Tabulations
Bond Election 2018 Survey Frequencies
Bond Election 2018 Survey Figures and Tables
Bond Election 2018 Survey Methodology
Bond Election 2018 Media Release
2017 Survey: The Impact of Hurricane Harvey
The Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston conducted a telephone survey in November and December 2017 to understand the experiences of people impacted by Hurricane Harvey and to gauge their support for flood mitigation policies. A total of 2,002 respondents living in Harris, Fort Bend, Brazoria and Montgomery Counties participated in the initial survey.
Survey Summary Report 2017
Survey Figures and Tables 2017
Survey Methodology 2017
Media Release 2018
Media Release 2017
Maria P. Perez Argüelles, Research Associate, Hobby School of Public Affairs, University of Houston
Renée Cross, Executive Director and Researcher, Hobby School of Public Affairs, University of Houston
Burak Giray, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Political Science, Research Assistant, Hobby School of Public Affairs, University of Houston
Jim Granato, Dean, Hobby School of Public Affairs, University of Houston
Samad Karimov, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Political Science, Research Assistant, Hobby School of Public Affairs, University of Houston
Savannah L. Sipole, Research Associate, Hobby School of Public Affairs, University of Houston
Pablo M. Pinto, Director, Center for Public Policy and Professor, Hobby School of Public Affairs, University of Houston
Karen E. Banda, Master of Public Policy Student, Hobby School of Public Affairs, University of Houston
Gail J. Buttorff, Director, Survey Research Institute and Instructional Assistant Professor, Hobby School of Public Affairs, University of Houston
Mark P. Jones, Senior Research Fellow, Hobby School of Public Affairs; James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy’s Fellow in Political Science, Rice University
Richard Murray, Research Associate, Hobby School of Public Affairs and Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science, University of Houston
Robert Stein, Lena Gohlman Fox Professor of Political Science, Rice University
Agustín Vallejo, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Hobby School of Public Affairs, University of Houston
M. C. Sunny Wong, Professor, Hobby School of Public Affairs, University of Houston