Examining the Educational Spillover Effects of Severe Natural Disasters: The Case of Hurricane Maria

Umut Ozek

Migration and its effects remain a contentious topic of debate in developed countries. While these debates typically relate to cross-border migration, there is growing concern about increasing rates of internal migration driven by climate change.

This study examines the effects of internal migration driven by severe natural disasters—one of the leading consequences of climate change—on students in host communities, and the mechanisms behind these effects, using the large influx of migrants into Florida public schools in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Key Findings

  • The study found adverse effects of the influx in the first year on existing student test scores, disciplinary problems, and student mobility among higher-performing students in middle and high school that also persist in the second year.
  • Using detailed data on student course enrollments that are linked to individual teachers, evidence shows that compensatory resource allocation within schools is an important factor driving the adverse effects on higher-performing students. In particular, schools reallocate resources (teachers in particular), moving more effective teachers from advanced courses to remedial courses to accommodate the needs of entering migrants.