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Research Proposal

Social Integration, Disaster, and Migration:

A study of how social integration reduces migration intent
following a natural disaster

Socy 5031 Research Design

Table of Contents

I. Research Problem
II. Purpose Statement
III. Literature Review
A. Initial Findings
1. Migration Theory and the experience of natural disaster in
relation to migration
2. Community Integration Theory and its relation to migration
3. Community integration related to the experience of natural
disasters and migration
IV. Hypothesis
V. Research Methods
A. Quantitative Survey Questionnaires
1. Key Variables
a. Migration Intentions
b. Social Integration
B. Qualitative Interviews
C. Sampling Techiniques
1. Survey Sample
2. Interview Sample
VI. Analysis of Data
VII. Benefits of Proposed Research Project
VIII. Project Time Line


Natural disasters impact communities around the world. Whether they are in the form

of flooding, earthquake, tornado, hurricane, or other, they will affect community

integration and potentially an individual or family’s desire to migrate.

While in general migration literature has focused theoretically and empirically on

questions related to why individuals move (or the leaving process) (Guest and Stamm

1993), the question of why do some persons stay has had little empirical research.

Perhaps this question has not been addressed because it seems quite self-explanatory;

people stay because they have chosen to live in a certain community in the first place.

However, with the introduction of a disaster into the picture of community living, this

question becomes more salient to multiple areas of research.

Purpose Statement

The purpose of this research is to study the effects of social integration on migration

intentions with the event of a disaster as the intervening variable. This study will look at

the ways that social integration assists in creating community cohesion and residential

satisfaction, mediating a desire to make a residential move following a disaster event.

This research is important because it calls into question the relationship of social

integration as a mediating factor in decisions to remain in a disaster-affected community

or to choose to leave. This is a question relevant to demographers who look at migration

patterns and causes which contribute to residential moves. It will also contribute to the

growing theories of social integration and social capital. On a practical note, by

examining their impact on community satisfaction, the study will benefit those

community organizations whose key emphases are to provide integrative mechanisms.

Initial findings

There are three areas of research which comprise the background for this project:

• Migration theory and the experience of a natural disaster in relation to migration;

• Community integration theory and its relation to migration intentions; and

• Community integration related to the experience of natural disasters and


This project will incorporate these three areas of research to show the relationship

between natural disaster and community integration as related to migration intentions.

1) Migration theory and the experience of a natural disaster in relation to migration

Migration theories in general have focused on cost-benefit analysis (Sjaastad 1962 as

presented in Speare 1974),the mover-stayer model (Goldstein 1958 as presented in

Speare 1974), and migration as response to stress (Speare 1974). Human-capital theory

(Kontuly, Smith and Heaton 1995) also looks at migration as a balance of costs and

benefits, but includes psychic costs and non-economic amenity measures that produce

quality of life.

Speare introduced residential satisfaction as an intervening variable in one’s decision

to migrate (Speare 1974) and looked at the strength of bonds and attachments as they are

related to one’s general level of satisfaction versus their dissatisfaction. He found that

residential satisfaction is indeed a key determinant of whether a person moves or stays at

the current location. DeJong, Warland, and Root (1998) echoed Spears finding that

social bonds create a significant mobility-inhibiting factor.

Much of the research related to natural disasters and migration has been done in

developing countries. These studies have focused on the socio-economic factors which

influence the decision to migrate following a disaster. The research done by Belcher and

Bates (1982) discusses the impact of a disaster as a “push” to leave the area and to see the

event as an opportunity creating a reason to move. Disaster impacts in developing

nations are potentially severe as they affect agriculture, sanitation, and lack of water/food

supplies (Swain 1996, Findley) creating a semi-voluntary move to areas that are more

sustainable for human life.

Relocation studies in the United States and other developed nations have focused on

the effects of disaster in relation to the relocation of an entire community. Relocation

appears to have different significance in the lives of community members compared with

migration because an entire population is being moved to a safer area. Resistance to

moves made by an entire community may be based most heavily in culture, and the

attachments one has to the community and financial constraints (Mileti and Passerini

1996). The risks of remaining in an impacted area and the extent of damage to one’s

assets also have an impact on the decision to relocate (Kirschenbaum 1996).

In one case of an involuntary relocation due to disaster, Miller, Turner, and Kimball

(1981) found that the possibility of a family’s return to their community became a critical

factor in recovery.

2) Community integration and it’s relation to migration intentions

Dense networks and strong ties among community members can best describe

community integration. Putnam (1995) describes integration in terms of social capital

and the reciprocal benefits that one receives. Haines, Hurlbert, and Beggs (1996) found

that those individuals who are embedded in dense, homogenous networks receive more

social support in routine and emergency situations than do individuals in wide-ranging

networks and that strong ties connect individuals who have detailed knowledge of each

other’s needs and multiple claims on each other’s attention (Haines, Hurlbert, and Beggs

1996). Hendrix (1976) has found that highly connected networks tend to produce

stability in relation to migration.

Research on relocation following a natural disaster alludes to the importance of

community integration in making decisions to move. Those who are most likely to resist

relocation tend to be those who have the strongest attachments to the community’s

cultural roots (Mileti and Passerini 1996). In the study done by Kirshenbaum (1996),

respondent’s evaluations of relations with neighbors had significant impact on their

decision to relocate following the disaster event.

3) Community integration related to the experience of natural disasters

Community integration will provide networks and social support for those who

experience disasters. Those without strong bonds may experience greater amounts of

distress in the event of a disaster as compared to those who are well plugged in to

community organizations.

Haines, Hurlbert, and Beggs (1996) found “whether strong local bonds are measured

by membership in fraternal organizations, service organizations, or other organizations,

they significantly and positively affect the number of individuals helped.” Hapke,

Mitchelson, and Dixon (2000) found that the character and strength of local social

networks becomes primarily important in coping with events such as a natural disaster.

Hypothesis: social integration within a community will decrease the likelihood of

disaster-event induced desire to migrate following a natural disaster.

Research methods

This proposal is written partially in response to a request for proposals through the

Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado. Every year, The Hazard’s Center

provides “quick response grants” to send research teams into the field within two weeks

following a natural disaster. The proposals are to identify the kind of disaster that the

team will study and a research question that is relevant to the context or to the wide-

ranging field of the social sciences. The submitted proposal identified the Western

United States as the region of study, but did not identify any particular type of disaster for

study. Thus the research team will enter the field with little advance knowledge

regarding the community to be studied.

Regardless of the type of disaster or the regional location, the question posed remains

salient. The impact of a natural disaster upon a community will create personal reactions

and affect the strength of community integration. In fact, entering the field within the

first two weeks of recovery from a natural disaster will directly benefit the research.

Early entry will allow participants to give responses that may be heightened by the effects

of the disaster and intensify their feelings regarding community integration and migration

intentions. The brevity of time for field work will also improve the content that is

reported in interviews. The lack of time will improve validity of results (Bernard 1988).

A natural disaster which affects multiple or single communities, provides a context in

which a single case study can be explored, or multiple cases can be contrasted. A

researcher might choose to use quantitative surveys to gain data or to engage in an

ethnographic study of the community. However a researcher decides to approach the

problem, the problem at hand will determine the method (Bryman 1984).

Due to the disaster context and immediacy of going into the field, this research

proposal invites a mixed method of qualitative and quantitative research in the form of a

single case study. Social scientist Robert Yin describes case studies as, “the preferred

method when how or why questions are being posed, when the investigator has little

control over events, or when the focus is on a contemporary phenomenon within a real-

life context” (Yin, 1994 as presented in Rozdilsky 1999.While field research typically

yields qualitative data that is based in observation and interviews (Babbie 1989:261) this

study will employ both qualitative and quantitative methods to give both breadth and

depth to the research at hand.

Due to a lack of preparation time immediately following the disaster, surveys will be

prepared prior to case specific qualitative data is gathered. It will be designed to provide

information determining community integration and residential satisfaction in relation to

migration intentions following the disaster. Theoretically, this survey will be applicable

to multiple disaster events and community contexts.

Qualitative field methods will be used to gather information that will fill in the gaps

related to the community context and disaster event. Observation and interviews will be

performed providing depth to the information gleaned from a larger sample of survey


Quantitative Survey Questionnaires

Key variables and proposed measurements:

Migration intentions

Migration intentions serves as the dependent variable for this study. Because this is a

case study with no follow up to determine the actual carrying out of migration, intentions

must be understood separately from actually carrying through a residential move. This

case study will be measuring one’s intentions or desires to move immediately following a

natural disaster. Research on relocation following a disaster event has operationalized

the dependent variable “relocation intent” in the following way:

• if given the opportunity, to what degree would you be willing to leave your

home and move to a safer place? (Kirshenbaum 1996)

Framing intention in this manner eliminated economic and other constraints on a decision

to relocate. While relocation is distinctly different from migration or residential moves in

that it generally entails the move of an entire community away from the hazardous area,

‘intent to move’ and ‘related degree of desire’ are questions that are certainly applicable

to migration.

Social integration

Social integration serves as the independent variable made up of multiple identifiers.

Social integration can be defined as the existence of strong social ties (Guest and Stamm

1993) that produce stability (Hendrix 1976). These ties may be informal through

friendship and kin networks, or more formal through participation in associations or

member-based activities.

Social integration is measured in a variety of ways, the most obvious being the

amount of time a person spends engaged in activities with the networks in which he or

she is a member. A feeling of satisfaction with one’s community becomes important in

measuring the extent to which integration is producing and filling its stabilizing role.

The following variables are examples of ways to measure social integration:

• Involvement in neighborhood groups, involvement in religious groups or

churches, involvement in local school, involvement in civic organizations.

Involvement will include amount of time dedicated as well as the importance of

involvement to the respondent’s quality of life and the returns he or she gets

from it.

• Neighborly measures – familiarity with neighbors and the extent to which

respondent has a trusting relationship with them.

• Community satisfaction – the level of satisfaction respondent has of community


Because religious affiliation is the most common associational membership among

Americans and is directly correlated with volunteerism and civic activity (Putnam 1995),

specific measures of social integration in relation to church-related groups (or faith based

organizations) will be asked of respondents as well. These will include measures of

importance of faith in respondent’s life, involvement in church activities (amount of time

spent and role played), and the subjective benefits of church participation (especially in

relation to the disaster event).

Guest and Stamm (1993) examined pathways of community integration following a

residential move. In this study, participants estimated the amount of effort expended in

nine specific integration activities after a move. These activities formed three specific

paths of integration. They are social and community integration, formal residential

integration, and personal integration.

Using these paths as models from which to evaluate integration, this survey will ask

respondents to rate the importance of these activities in relation to their personal

integration into the community.

In order to determine the effects of the disaster on the respondent’s housing as well as

their sense of safety, the survey will include a section requesting information about the

respondent’s interpretation of the disaster event and its effects on him or her. Background

information will be requested from respondents as well. Some of these measures are:

age, gender, race, income, marital status, occupation, home ownership, and length of


Qualitative interviews

Upon entry into the disaster community, key informants will be identified for

interviews. A structured survey guide (see Weiss 1994) will be prepared prior to entry

into the field and will include the following areas for question and discussion:

1) Population and migration – racial/ethnic mix? Has there been recent migration

into or out of community? Is there any community growth?

2) Economic transitions - Major employers? Unemployment? New technology

entering community? Lack of opportunity in community?

3) Community member involvement – in civic affairs, at town meetings, in local

faith organizations. What are the community indicators that the respondent can


4) Safety in community – in relation to everyday feeling of safety and also in

response to disaster. High/low crime rates? Neighborhoods working together to

promote safety? Community plans for crime prevention?

5) Past hazards experience – any previous experience of disaster in community?

How are they rebuilding? What groups are most actively involved?

6) Present hazards experience – effect of disaster on community now. Community

aid and volunteerism that is being offered?

Sampling techniques

Survey sample:

The research team will be focusing on one geographic area that is greatly impacted by

the natural disaster. In doing so, the sample area will be small and the respondents will

be identified due to their residency in the impacted location. Therefore, the sample frame

will be the impacted area. A random sample will be drawn from households within that

area and will be limited to non-institutionalized literate adults over the age 18. This will

provide the truest representation of the impacted population.

Within this impact area, the research team plans to sample a proportion of the

community population that gives the best representation of the community. Using a

drop-off, pick-up technique surveys will be individually left at a chosen residence, with

the purpose of the survey being explained, face-to-face, to an adult in the household by a

member of the research team. At this time, the researcher will provide an explanation of

the study being done, and the usefulness it will provide to the community in which they


Previous records of research methods used at disaster sites have shown that qualitative

methods have been employed to increase the amount of data collected. Previous surveys

were distributed through the mail and many were not responded to due to change of

address (Paul 1999). Because these surveys are being left with residents who have been

directly impacted by the disaster, it is the hope of the researcher that a face-to-face

conversation will give impetus to the respondent to participate in the study.

A time will be designated for the researcher to return to pick up the completed survey

the following day. A plastic bag will be provided for the respondent to leave the survey

on the doorknob for easy pick up.

Qualitative interview sample:

Qualitative interviews will be performed through non-probability sampling. Initial

informants will be identified through faith organizations located within the impacted area.

At least five faith organizations will be initially chosen, based on differing faith

representations and proximity to the impacted area. Following this initial outreach,

researchers will request leads through a snowball sampling technique (Biernacki and

Waldorf 1981) in order to determine other key community informants with whom to talk.

Community informants may include civic leaders, non-governmental organization leaders

within the community, and organizers who have a history in the community.

In addition to these informants, interviews may be conducted with persons directly

impacted by the disaster who are being sheltered in temporary housing. These interviews

will be open ended and subjective, offering the respondent an opportunity to tell their

story and to add greater depth to the researcher’s understanding of the pre and post

disaster event.

Interviews with key informants will provide the needed depth for this study on

community integration measures. Because faith leaders tend to have their ‘finger on the

pulse’ of what is going on in their communities, or at least among their congregants, they

will be able to provide inside information about community issues that may have been

affecting respondents prior to the disaster and are inflamed by the event.

Analysis of data

Data analysis will be tackled upon return from the disaster site. While preliminary

thematic notes will be compiled in the field at daily debriefings among team members,

official data analysis will not be accomplished until returning to the University setting.

Informal analysis of relevant documents gathered from the World Wide Web and

news releases will assist in providing background materials in which to frame the disaster

event. The approach taken will be informal content analysis (Babbie 1989:292) to gain

themes about the disaster site the team will be entering.

Taped recordings and notes from qualitative interviews will be transcribed as quickly

as possible upon return from the field (Bernard 1988, Huberman and Miles 1994).

Inductive and deductive analysis will be mixed (Huberman and Miles 1994) as themes,

and patterns are gleaned then compared with the initial hypotheses posed. This part of

the research is key to provide depth to the quantitative surveys administered and to fill in

the gaps about the disaster and community as related to the disaster.

Quantitative surveys will be analyzed using statistical techniques to determine the

correlations between variables. Researchers will use bivariate and multivariate

techniques to measure the effects of independent variables on the dependent variable

(McClave and Sincich 2000:578). Tables will be compiled to demonstrate the

relationships between the variables.

Benefits of the proposed research project

Population and migration theorists, disaster theorists, and social integration theorists

have made valuable contributions to the field of social research. Often, their areas of

expertise overlap to produce important findings that are beneficial to the social sciences

and other areas of study. With the multiple theories available about migration in relation

to disasters and the social capital that is challenged with moves, there is little work done

on why people choose to stay following a disaster.

This research project will provide key connections between migration and population,

disasters, and social integrations and will produce new findings about the interrelations

between each. The outcomes of this research will provide useful information to

demographers charting migration patterns, disaster researchers who are looking at

community integration in relation to recovery efforts and relocation responses, and to

social integration theorists who measure the effects of social capital in the lives of

community members.

In addition to academic importance, this research will provide findings for community

leaders interested in understanding the influence that community ties have upon residents.

There are many other possible outcomes that can be deduced from this research, one of

which is the specific measure of one’s involvement in faith-based organizations as a key

social integrator. Thus, this research may provide impetus for faith based, community

based, and civic organizational leaders to create programs that will foster deeper ties and

greater social networks among community members.

Project Time Line

Due to the nature of a quick response grant, a research plan that can be implemented

quickly and succinctly will enable researchers to enter the field and accomplish their

tasks within the time alloted. The following time line is representative of this fact.

I. Submit initial Quick Response Research Proposal to the Natural Hazards

Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder. (October 12, 2000)

A. The proposal that was submitted presented a basic overview of the

association between social integration, residential satisfaction, and

migration intentions within a post-disaster context. This proposal that you

are currently reading is much more in depth and focuses on the aspect of

social integration.

II. Receive approval for project funding from Natural Hazards Center at the

University of Colorado. (November 10, 2000)

B. Project is approved for possible funding should an event occur that meets

the criteria outlined in the submitted proposal.

III. Submit any surveys to institution’s IRB for approval before entering field.

(currently in process.)

A. Attempt any pre-testing that might be applicable

IV. Wait for and identify disaster site and type

V. Review literature on type of disaster research team will be encountering

A. Review any news releases about disaster

VI. Use World Wide Web and census information to locate information about the

community and to determine preliminary understanding of community


VII. Identify and contact local authorities to receive any necessary clearances to

enter disaster site/community

VIII. Identify and contact key informants in community

A. Church leaders

B. Civic leaders

C. Community leaders

IX. Enter field work site, divide research team to accomplish tasks

A. Team I – qualitative interview team

1. Begin interviews with informants

2. Use snowball sampling to identify other key contacts

3. Collect any other demographic information available

B. Team II – quantitative survey team

1. Identify geographic boundaries of survey area

2. Begin door to door drop off and instructions

3. Pick up completed questionnaires

4. View disaster site as non-participant observer

5. Assist in interviews with informants (especially those directly

affected by disaster)

C. Daily fieldwork will include debriefings of the research efforts, to compare

field and interview notes, and to process any difficulties that may be

encountered in the field.

X. Analysis of data

A. Return home and begin data analysis

B. Begin write up of report with outcomes

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