Population and Environment

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 293–312

Natural disasters and local demographic change in the United States

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11111-012-0171-7

Cite this article as:
Schultz, J. & Elliott, J.R. Popul Environ (2013) 34: 293. doi:10.1007/s11111-012-0171-7


Classic studies on local demographic consequences of natural disasters in the United States are now more than 30 years old, raising questions about how and to what extent relevant patterns have changed over intervening years, as the number and cost of recorded environmental hazards have increased. This study examines these questions at the county level for the nation as a whole, using recent census and hazards data in conjunction with statistical methods that account for spatial dependencies among neighboring counties. Results indicate a positive correlation between cumulative disaster impact during the 1990s and changes in local population and housing units; they also reveal patterns of increased socioeconomic polarization among local residents. These findings differ from earlier studies and put recent case studies in broader context, suggesting that current disaster recoveries contribute to the growth of larger and more unequal populations in environmentally hazardous places.


Environmental hazards Natural disasters Demographic change Socioeconomic inequality 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sociology DepartmentUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA

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