Social vulnerability emphasizes the different burdens of disaster losses within and between places. Although China continuously experiences devastating natural disasters, there is a paucity of research specifically addressing the multidimensional nature of social vulnerability. This article presents an initial study on the social vulnerability of the Yangtze River Delta region in China. The goal is to replicate and test the applicability of the place-based Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI®) developed for the United States in a Chinese cultural context. Twenty-nine variables adapted from SoVI® were collected for each of the 134 analysis units in the study area. Using principal components analysis, six factors were identified from the variable set: employment and poverty, education, poor housing quality, minorities, family size, and housing size—factors similar to those identified for the United States. Factor scores were summed to get the final SoVI® scores and the most and least vulnerable study units were identified and mapped. The highest social vulnerability is concentrated in the southern portions of the study area—Jingning, Suichang, Yunhe, Lanxi, Pan’an, and Shengsi. The least socially vulnerable areas are concentrated southwest, west, and northwest of Shanghai. Limitations of replication are discussed along with policy-relevant suggestions for vulnerability reduction and risk mitigation in China.
Abdi, H., and L. J. Williams. 2010. Principal Component Analysis. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Computational Statistics 2(4): 433–459.
Alexander, D. 1997. The Study of Natural Disasters, 1977–97: Some Reflections on a Changing Field of Knowledge. Disasters 21(4): 284–304.
Armas, I. 2008. Social Vulnerability and Seismic Risk Perception. Case Study: The Historic Center of the Bucharest Municipality/Romania. Natural Hazards 47(3): 397–410.
Birkmann, J. 2006a. Indicators and Criteria for Measuring Vulnerability: Theoretical Bases and Requirements. In: Measuring Vulnerability to Natural Hazards: Towards Disaster Resilient Societies, edited by J. Birkmann, 55–77. Tokyo: United Nations University Press.
Birkmann, J. 2006b. Measuring Vulnerability to Promote Disaster-Resilient Societies: Conceptual Frameworks and Definitions. In: Measuring Vulnerability to Natural Hazards:Towards Disaster Resilient Societies, edited by J. Birkmann, 9–54. Tokyo: United Nations University Press.
Blaikie, P. M., T. Cannon, I. Davis, and B. Wisner. 1994. At Risk: Natural Hazards, People’s Vulnerability, and Disasters. 1st Edition. London: Routledge.
Boruff, B. J., and S. L. Cutter. 2007. The environmental Vulnerability of Caribbean Island Nations. Geographical Review 97(1): 24–45.
Cardona, O. D. 2003. The Need for Rethinking the Concepts of Vulnerability and Risk from a Holistic Perspective: A Necessary Review and Criticism for Effective Risk Management. In: Mapping Vulnerability: Disasters, Development and People, edited by G. Bankoff, D. Hilhorst, and G. Frerks, 37–51. London: Earthscan.
Chen, Y., Q. F. Chen, and L. Chen. 2001. Vulnerability Analysis in Earthquake Loss Estimate. Natural Hazards 23(2–3): 349–364.
Cutter, S. L. 1996. Vulnerability to Environmental Hazards. Progress in Human Geography 20(4): 529–539.
Cutter, S. L., B. J. Boruff, and W. L. Shirley. 2003. Social Vulnerability to Environmental Hazards. Social Science Quarterly 84(2): 242–261.
Cutter, S. L., and C. Finch. 2008. Temporal and Spatial Changes in Social Vulnerability to Natural Hazards. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105(7): 2301–2306.
Cutter, S. L., and D. P. Morath. 2014. The Evolution of the Social Vulnerability Index. In: Measuring Vulnerability to Natural Hazards: Towards Disaster Resilient Societies, edited by J. Birkmann. New York: United Nations University Press.
Fan, S., R. Kanbur, and X. Zhang, eds. 2009. Regional Inequality in China: Trends, Explanations and Policy Responses. London and New York: Routledge.
Few, R., and G. T. Pham. 2010. Climatic Hazards, Health Risk and Response in Vietnam: Case Studies on Social Dimensions of Vulnerability. Global Environmental Change — Human and Policy Dimensions 20(3): 529–538.
Fordham, M. 1999. The Intersection of Gender and Social Class in Disaster: Balancing Resilience and Vulnerability. International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters 17(1): 15–37.
Ge, Y., W. Dou, Z. Gu, Z. Qian, J. Wang, W. Xu, P. Shi, X. Ming, X. Zhou, and Y. Chen. 2013. Assessment of Social Vulnerability to Natural Hazards in the Yangtze River Delta, China. Stochastic Environmental Research and Risk Assessment. doi:10.1007/s00477-013-0725-y.
Henderson, J. V., J. Quigley, and E. Lim. 2009. Urbanization in China: Policy Issues and Options. Unpublished manuscript, Brown University. http://www.econ.brown.edu/faculty/henderson/.
Hewitt, K., ed. 1983. Interpretations of Calamity: From the Viewpoint of Human Ecology. Boston, MA: Allen & Unwin.
Hewitt, K. 1997. Regions of Risk: A Geographical Introduction to Disasters. Singapore: Longman.
Holand, I. S., and P. Lujala. 2013. Replicating and Adapting an Index of Social Vulnerability to a New Context: A Comparison Study for Norway. The Professional Geographer 65(2): 312–328.
Huang, D., R. Zhang, Z. Huo, F. Mao, Y. E, and W. Zheng. 2012. An Assessment of Multidimensional Flood Vulnerability at the Provincial Scale in China Based on the DEA Model. Natural Hazards 64(2): 1575–1586.
Jolliffe, I. 2005. Principal Component Analysis. Wiley Online Library. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/0470013192.bsa501/full.
Laska, S., and B. H. Morrow. 2006. Social Vulnerabilities and Hurricane Katrina: An Unnatural Disaster in New Orleans. Marine Technology Society Journal 40(4): 16–26.
Li, K., and G. S. Li. 2011. Vulnerability Assessment of Storm Surges in the Coastal Area of Guangdong Province. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 11(7): 2003–2010.
Mallick, B., K. R. Rahaman, and J. Vogt. 2011. Social Vulnerability Analysis for Sustainable Disaster Mitigation Planning in Coastal Bangladesh. Disaster Prevention and Management 20(3): 220–237.
Mendes, J. M. 2009. Social Vulnerability Indexes as Planning Tools: Beyond the Preparedness Paradigm. Journal of Risk Research 12(1): 43–58.
Mileti, D. 1999. Disasters by Design: A Reassessment of Natural Hazards in the United States. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press.
Ministry of Civil Affairs of the People’s Republic of China. 2011. China Civil Affair’s Statistical Yearbook 2011. Beijing: China Statistics Press.
Montz, B. E., and G. A. Tobin. 2011. Natural Hazards: An Evolving Tradition in Applied Geography. Applied Geography 31(1): 1–4.
Myers, C. A., T. Slack, and J. Singelmann. 2008. Social Vulnerability and Migration in the Wake of Disaster: The Case of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Population and Environment 29(6): 271–291.
Population Census Office of the State Council and Department of Population and Employment Statistics of the National Bureau of Statistics of China. 2012. Tabulation on the 2010 Population Censue of the People’s Republic of China by County. Beijing: China Statistics Press.
Sheng, Z. 2011. Towards China’s Urban-Rural Integration: Issues and Options. International Journal of China Studies 2(2): 345–367.
Shi, L. 1993. Health Care in China: A Rural-Urban Comparison After the Socioeconomic Reforms. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 71(6): 723.
Tierney, K. 2006. Social Inequality, Hazards, and Disasters. In: On Risk and Disaster: Lessons from Hurricane Katrina, edited by R. J. Daniels, E. F. Kettl, and H. Kunreuther, 109–128. Philadephia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Tobin, G. A., and B. E. Montz. 1997. Natural Hazards: Explanation and Integration. New York: The Guilford Press.
Weather China. 2009. The 1954 Flood Disaster in the Taihu Lake Basin. http://www.weather.com.cn/static/html/article/20090809/48257.shtml.
Wei, Y. M., Y. Fan, C. Lu, and H. T. Tsai. 2004. The Assessment of Vulnerability to Natural Disasters in China by Using the DEA Method. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 24(4): 427–439.
Wen, K., and G. Bian, eds. 2008. Encyclopedia of Meteorological Disasters in China — Jiangsu. Beijing: China Meteorological Press.
Wen, K., and G. Xi, eds. 2006. Encyclopedia of Meteorological Disasters in China — Zhejiang. Beijing: China Meteorological Press.
Wen, K., and Y. Xu, eds. 2006. Encyclopedia of Meteorological Disasters in China — Shanghai. Beijing: China Meteorological Press.
White, G. F., R. W. Kates, and I. Burton. 2001. Knowing Better and Losing Even More: The Use of Knowledge in Hazards Management. Global Environmental Change Part B: Environmental Hazards 3(3–4): 81–92.
Whyte, M. K., ed. 2010. One Country, Two Societies: Rural-Urban Inequality in Contemporary China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Wu, D., D. H. Yan, G. Y. Yang, X. G. Wang, W. H. Xiao, and H. T. Zhang. 2013. Assessment on Agricultural Drought Vulnerability in the Yellow River Basin Based on a Fuzzy Clustering Iterative Model. Natural Hazards 67(2): 919–936.
Zeng, J., Z. Y. Zhu, J. L. Zhang, T. P. Ouyang, S. F. Qiu, Y. Zou, and T. Zeng. 2012. Social Vulnerability Assessment of Natural Hazards on County-Scale Using High Spatial Resolution Satellite Imagery: A Case Study in the Luogang District of Guangzhou, South China. Environmental Earth Sciences 65(1): 173–182.
Zou, L. L., and Y. M. Wei. 2010. Driving Factors for Social Vulnerability to Coastal Hazards in Southeast Asia: Results from the Meta-Analysis. Natural Hazards 54(3): 901–929.
This article is published with open access at Springerlink.com
About this article
Cite this article
Chen, W., Cutter, S.L., Emrich, C.T. et al. Measuring social vulnerability to natural hazards in the Yangtze River Delta region, China. Int J Disaster Risk Sci 4, 169–181 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13753-013-0018-6