How Entrepreneurship Promotes Community Recovery: The Cases of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy

  • Virgil Henry Storr
  • Stefanie Haeffele-Balch
  • Laura E. Grube
Part of the Perspectives from Social Economics book series (PSE)


There has been an increase in the reported number of natural disasters throughout the world in recent years. According to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disaster (CRED), the number of natural disasters worldwide has steadily increased, with 24 in 1950; 65 in 1975; 296 in 1990; and 528 in 2000.1 CRED identifies 11 different types of natural disasters, including droughts, earthquakes, epidemics, extreme temperatures, floods, insect infestations, landslides, mass movements, storms, volcanic activities, and wildfires.2 Since 1950, there have been 12,813 natural disasters worldwide. Of these natural disasters, 62 percent were either floods (34 percent) or storms (28 percent).


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  1. 2.
    We should remember that every hurricane or earthquake is not a disaster in the sense we employ the term here. For us, these natural occurrences only “become” disasters if and when, as discussed in chapter 3, they cause large enough levels of destruction and affect and displace large enough numbers of community members such that responding and recovering from the occurrence constitute a collective action problem. Disasters, in this sense, are constructions. Hay (“Narrating Crisis: The Discursive Construction of the Winter of Discontent,” Sociology 30, no. 2 (1996): 253–277) has suggested that crises are, similarly, social constructions.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 5.
    A large part of this occurrence can be attributed to increasing wealth, which translates to safer buildings and more advanced warning systems. Kahn (“The Death Toll from Natural Disasters: The Role of Income, Geography, and Institutions,” Review of Economics and Statistics 87, no. 2 (2005): 271–284) performs a cross-country analysis and considers the impact of increasing incomes on the number of fatalities following disaster. He notes (ibid.: 280), “The average nation with a GDP per capita of $2000 experiences 944 deaths from natural disaster per year. If this nation’s GNP per capita grew to $14,000, its death toll would fall to 180 per year.”CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 8.
    For example, Garrett and Sobel (“The Political Economy of FEMA Disaster Payments,” Economic Inquiry 41, no. 3 (2003): 496–509) have shown that disaster assistance is not necessarily distributed based on damage. The authors locate two avenues for political influence to impact federal disaster assistance. First, the Stafford Act gives the president power to declare an emergency following a natural disaster, and because there are no strict criteria of emergency, the president may use personal discretion. Second, states represented on FEMA oversight committees may receive more disaster assistance. The authors examined disaster declarations and disaster assistance in the United States from 1991 to 1999 and found that states politically important to the president and states with congressional representatives on the FEMA oversight committees are more likely to have disaster declarations and receive more aid.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 28.
    Qualitative methods are particularly useful in studying the response of individuals to disasters. As Vollmer (The Sociology of Disruption, Disaster and Social Change: Punctuated Cooperation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013): 2) describes, “with increasing magnitude and relevance of a disruption, there is an intuitive sense that something is different after a disruption has taken place. In attempts to localize this difference, the impact on individuals, their biographies, their sense of order or psychological well-being tends to come into focus.”CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 29.
    Additionally, as Chamlee-Wright (The Cultural and Political Economy of Recovery: Social Learning in a Post-Disaster Environment (London: Routledge, 2010): 27) explains, “to gain … perspective, we need to come down from time to time and look at our puzzle up close. When we do this, we need to admit that we are looking at a particular piece of the overall structure (not the whole thing) but this is true even when we look at it from the air. Though this on-the-ground view is partial, it affords us the opportunity to see details that would otherwise be missed.”Google Scholar

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© Virgil Henry Storr, Stefanie Haeffele-Balch and Laura E. Grube 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Virgil Henry Storr
  • Stefanie Haeffele-Balch
  • Laura E. Grube

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