Americans abandoning neighborhoods due to rising flood risk, study finds

Rising risk of floods is hollowing out counties across the United States — creating abandoned pockets in the hearts of cities, a new report has found.


Climate Abandonment of Neighborhoods

A new report published in Nature Climate Change has found that the risk of floods is causing Americans to abandon neighborhoods, particularly in the Midwest states such as Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Minnesota. These abandoned areas often coincide with regions of historical disinvestment. The study warns of a potential 'doom loop' of outmigration, with only those who cannot afford to leave remaining in the most climate-threatened areas. The study suggests that without investments to improve the resilience of these areas, mass migrations comparable to the Great Migration of the twentieth century could occur, with millions of people being forced to move.

Impact on Neighborhoods

The findings of the study indicate that neighborhoods in cities such as Houston, Miami, and Washington, D.C. are being abandoned due to the increasing flood risk. While these cities are currently attracting more people than the flood risk is pushing away, the study suggests that they are approaching a tipping point, after which a decline in population and property values will begin. The research was conducted by First Street Foundation, a nonprofit research group that focuses on predicting long-term climate risks for individual properties. The group's founder, Matthew Eby, highlights the importance of understanding how climate change affects property values.

Local Moves and Flood Risk

Contrary to the popular narrative that Americans are moving towards climate risks, the study reveals that when it comes to short-term moves, people tend to move away from flood risk rather than towards it. The majority of Americans move within their county rather than across state lines. The study by First Street Foundation analyzed the impacts of rising flood risk on the population of individual census blocks and found that flood risk alone has already led to outmigration from 3 million census blocks in the United States, affecting about a third of the nation's population. These declining neighborhoods are referred to as 'climate abandonment areas.'