Racial Inequities in Federal Buyout of Flood-Prone Homes

Racial Inequities in the Federal Buyout of Flood-Prone Homes: A Nationwide Assessment of Environmental Adaptation

One way the U.S. government is responding to the challenges of climate change is by funding the purchase of tens of thousands of flood-prone homes in more than 500 cities and towns across the country. This study provides a nationwide analysis of that program, extending beyond cost-benefit calculations to investigate racial inequities at different scales of local implementation, from county-level adoption, through neighborhood-level participation, to homeowner approval. Statistical analyses indicate that net of local flood damage, population, and incomes, the program disproportionately targets whiter counties and neighborhoods, especially in more urbanized areas where the program now concentrates. Yet it is neighborhoods of color in these areas that have been historically more likely to accept buyouts in greater numbers. The exception is the New York and New Jersey area after Hurricane Sandy. Implications for understanding how racial privilege works through government programs aimed at encouraging environmental adaptation are discussed.

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