Living with Disaster: Risk, Housing Instability, and Post-Disaster Migration


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This thesis examines the 2021 Caldor Fire and the experiences of survivors with insurance and housing. The purpose is to show that the effects of disasters extend beyond what is typically considered the "disaster zone." The thesis relies on 16 interviews conducted at the beginning of 2022 and supplementary data from 30 GoFundMe campaigns. An analysis of the data finds that survivors could not acquire insurance before the fire because insurers had dropped policies due to an increased perceived risk established by previous fires. Survivors also could not receive federal assistance because methods used by FEMA overestimated how many were insured in the affected area. Ultimately, the Caldor Fire forced survivors into a competitive housing market, exacerbating the state's housing crisis. The results show that smaller-scale disasters impact surrounding communities, counties, and states in a way that is currently not being monitored or discussed. The thesis also finds that public sociologists have a role in sharing survivors' experiences with larger publics.