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Disasters, local organizations, and poverty in the USA, 1998 to 2015

Abstract

Disaster research has drawn attention to how natural hazards transform local organizational dynamics and social inequalities. It has yet to examine how these processes unfold together over time. We begin to fill this gap with a county-level, longitudinal analysis that examines how property damages from natural hazards correlate not only with local shifts in poverty a year later but also counts of for-profit as well as bonding and bridging social capital organizations. Results show that poverty and all organizational types tend to increase with local hazard damages. They also show that poverty tends to increase most where the number of bonding social capital organizations is also increasing. This pattern suggests a Janus-faced dynamic in which bonding, or more inwardly focused, organizations that arise after disaster may end up inadvertently marginalizing those in more dire need.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We use the term “social capital organizations” to refer to a range of mostly (but not strictly) non-profit organizations. This terminology follows the convention utilized by social capital indexes (Rupasingha, Goetz, and Freshwater 2006), which include organizations that are presumed to activate social capital through cultivating social ties (Paxton 2007; Putnam 2000).

  2. 2.

    Assessments of natural hazard impacts sometimes distinguish between “damages” and “losses.” Damages refer to the destruction of physical assets, most notably property; losses refer to the reduction of flows of benefits, most notably income (Brusentsev and Vroman 2016). Empirical focus in our study is on damages and how they might correlate with shifts in the organizational structure and general well-being affected areas. To clarify that these damages are from natural hazards, we use “hazard damages” rather than the longer phrase of “damages resulting from natural hazards.

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Smiley, K.T., Howell, J. & Elliott, J.R. Disasters, local organizations, and poverty in the USA, 1998 to 2015. Popul Environ 40, 115–135 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11111-018-0304-8

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Keywords

  • Disasters
  • Natural hazards
  • Social capital
  • Poverty
  • Bonding social capital
  • Bridging social capital