Date of Award

Summer 8-22-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

William R. Travis

Second Advisor

Stefan Leyk

Third Advisor

Seth Spielman

Fourth Advisor

Roger Pielke, Jr.

Fifth Advisor

Nathan J. Wood

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License


The research undertaken in this study evaluates changes in the risk and vulnerability of residential building construction and valuation of eight cities in the United States to assess the changes in flood risk across levee-protected and non-leveed riverine floodplains. Floods cause more losses than any other hazard in the U.S. and losses continue to increase despite longstanding loss reduction policies and practices. To estimate whether levees increase the risk and vulnerability of residential buildings to flooding, this study analyzes residential tax parcels, levee and protected-area data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ National Levee Database, and regulatory floodplain zoning data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the National Flood Insurance Program, intended to discourage floodplain development when alternatives are available and encourage mitigation practices and participation in insurance coverage to lessen the necessity for disaster relief funding when flooding inevitably occurs. With empirical information about the history and locations of residential development, the study develops a taxonomy of floodplain occupation types and employs difference-indifferences regression to evaluate treatment (i.e. levee-protected) and control (i.e. non-leveed, non-floodplain) groups before and after levee construction; further, the study constructs a deep history of wetland reclamation to consider path dependency as a theory for explaining changes in residential flood risk and vulnerability. The results of the study indicate that levees are associated with increasing residential buildings’ value-at-risk of flooding and increasing vulnerability to flood losses due to canceling of required insurance participation through levee accreditation.