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Social Vulnerability to Environmental Hazards

Susan L. Cutter, Bryan J. Boruff and W. Lynn Shirley of University of South Carolina

Dinee Tamang Roll No: MSD355 M.Sc DRM ,1st semester

vulnerability to environmental hazards means the potential for loss three main tenets in vulnerability research
The identification of conditions that make people or places vulnerable to extreme natural events, an exposure model the assumption that vulnerability is a social condition, a measure of societal resistance or resilience to hazards the integration of potential exposures and societal resilience with a specific focus on particular places or regions

Vulnerability Paradox

Factors influencing social Vulnerability

Major factors that influence social vulnerability
Lack of access to resources Limited access to political power and representation Social capital, including social networks and connections Belief and customs Building stock and age Frail and physically limited individuals Type and density of infrastructure and lifeline

Disagreements arise in the selection of specific variables to represent these broader concepts

Factors Influencing Social Vulnerability

High status, Gender Nonwhite, Non-Anglo Elderly, Children Large Special needs population High density and high value of commercial and industrial development Employment loss Rural Urban Mobile homes Renters High Birth rate, Large families, Single parent households Rapid Growth High status Occupation (Professional or managerial) Highly educated Higher density of medical services Low dependence

Question ?
Can we empirically define a robust set of variables that capture all the characteristics , which allows us to monitor changes in social vulnerability geographically ad over time?

County-level socioeconomic and demographic data were used to construct an index of social vulnerability to environmental hazards, called the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) for the United States

Data Collected: Socioeconomic data for 1990 for all 3,141 U.S. counties Data source: U.S. Census (City and County Data Books for 1994 and 1998) Selection of variables
Specific variables characterizing broader dimension of Social Vulnerability (250)

Multicollinearity testing among variables

85 raw and computed variables

Computization and normalization of data

42 independent variables used in statistical analysis

Use of Factor Analysis: Principal Component Analysis

Total 11 factors were produced to explain variance among all counties


Hazard of Place Model of Vulnerability (Modified from Cutter, (1996)

SoVI (Social Vulnerability Index)

Relative measure of the overall social vulnerability for each country

Use of additive model to produce SoVI No a priori assumption about importance of factor Absence of defensible method for assigning weights Mapping of SoVI scores based on SD from mean into five categories ranging from -1 to+1

SoVI ranges from -9.6 (low vulnerability) to 49.51(high vulnerability) with mean vulnerability score of 1.54 (SD=3.38) Moderate levels of social vulnerability in all counties Most vulnerable appear in the southern half of nation stretching from south Florida to California regions 393 counties( most vulnerable) Most vulnerable county:
Manhattan Borough, Franscisco County and Bronx County(density of built env) Kalawao and Hawaii ( elderly, race/ethnicity, poverty) Benton: High debt to revenue ratio

Least vulnerable country: counties clustered in New England

Yellow Stone National Park (protected status) Exception: Moore Country (in southern central state)

Comparative Vulnerability of U.S. Counties Based on the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI)

Testing reliability and usefulness of SoVI

Correlation between frequency of presidential disaster declarations by county and SoVI index score Weak but negative relationship observed( r= - 0.099, s= 0.000) Average number of presidential disaster declarations per county is 2.4 Average number of presidential disaster declarations among most vulnerable counties is 1.97 Average number of presidential disaster declarations among least vulnerable counties is 2.52 Suggests
not statistically significant No discernible trend in the relationship between presidential declarations and the degree of social vulnerability

Conclusions and Suggestions

No consensus within social science community about social vulnerability and correlates, all factors contribute to vulnerability ,some increase it and others moderate it Social vulnerability is multidimensional concept that helps to identify those characteristics and experiences of communities (and individuals) that enable them to respond to and recover from environmental hazards. SoVI is not a perfect construct and more refinements are necessary SoVI can be coupled with hazard event frequency and economic loss data to further examine those individual factors that are the most important contributors to dollar losses. Examination of how the overall social vulnerability as measured by the SoVI has changed over time and space. support specific subsetting of counties, such as coastal or riverine counties, to ascertain similarities and differences in relative levels of social vulnerability The development and integration of social, built environment, and natural hazard indicators will improve our hazard assessments and justify the selective targeting of communities for mitigation based on good social science, not just political whim.

Thank you