Measuring social vulnerability to natural hazards in the Yangtze River Delta region, China

Abstract

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.

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Correspondence to Peijun Shi.

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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

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Keywords

  • China
  • natural hazards
  • social vulnerability index
  • Yangtze River Delta