Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Disasters, community vulnerability, and poverty: The intersection between economics and emergency management

Erik Wood, MS, Tim Frazier, PhD


Climate change will create more intense and frequent disasters, resulting in the increased exposure of the most vulnerable populations. It is debatable whether the vulnerability research that follows major disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, has resulted in increased resiliency of those who were the most vulnerable during that disaster. It may even be plausible to suggest that research that exposes countless vulnerabilities within a population is guilty of helping none. Through support from a focused review of the related literature, research findings include the following: (1) post-disaster research analysis tends not to present an actionable hierarchy for public agencies and community organizations to prioritize efforts, (2) the most common thread that runs through societal vulnerability in daily life, and opposite the force multiplying effects of climate change, is poverty; and (3) climate change is likely to facilitate more post-disaster windows of opportunity characterized by increased public consonance that can galvanize transformative change at a local level.


poverty, social justice, economic risk, whole community, vulnerability

Full Text:



Lippmann AL: Disaster preparedness in vulnerable communities. Int Law Policy Rev. 2011; 1(1): 69-96.

Riley-Jacome M, Parker BAG, Waltz EC: Weaving Latino cultural concepts into preparedness core competency training. J Public Health Manag Practice. 2014; 20: S89-S100.

Tierney K, Daniels RJ, Kettl DF, et al.: On risk and disaster: Lessons from Hurricane Katrina. In Social Inequality, Hazards, and Disasters. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006: 109-128.

Birkland TA: After Disaster: Agenda Setting, Public Policy, and Focusing Events. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1997.

Farley J, Baker D, Batker D, et al.: Opening the policy window for ecological economics: Katrina as a focusing event. Ecol Econ. 2007; 63(2-3): 344-354.

Fussell E: The long-term recovery of new Orleans’ population after Hurricane Katrina. Am Behav Sci. 2015; 59(10): 1231-1245.

Alefosio A, Evans S, Robins-Brown P: Because of Louisiana, the minimum wage in new Orleans is a poverty wage. City Lab. 2019. Accessed at Accessed November 1, 2020.

Eisenman DP, Cordasco KM, Asch S, et al.: Disaster planning and risk communication with vulnerable communities: Lessons from Hurricane Katrina. Am J Public Health. 2007; 97(Suppl. 1): S109-S115.

Stajura M, Glik D, Eisenman D, et al.: Perspectives of community-and faith-based organizations about partnering with local health departments for disasters. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2012; 9(7): 2293-2311.

Doorn N: Resilience indicators: Opportunities for including distributive justice concerns in disaster management. J Risk Res. 2017; 20(6): 711-731.

Mutter JC: The Disaster Profiteers: How Natural Disasters Make the Rich Richer and the Poor Even Poorer. New York, NY: Macmillan, 2015.

Tierney K: The Social Roots of Risk: Producing Disasters, Promoting Resilience. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014.

Yee DKP: Violence and disaster capitalism in post-Haiyan Philippines. Peace Rev. 2018; 30(2): 160-167.

Barrett CB, Constas MA: Toward a theory of resilience for international development applications. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2014; 111(40): 14625-14630.

Dempster N, Stevens E, Keeffe M: Student and youth leadership: A focused literature review. Lead Manag. 2011; 17(2): 1-20.

Walton AL, Rogers B: Workplace hazards faced by nursing assistants in the United States: A focused literature review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017; 14(5): 544.

Rufat S, Tate E, Emrich CT, et al.: How valid are social vulnerability models? Annal Am Assoc Geograp. 2019; 109(4): 1131-1153.

Hallegatte S, Bangalore M, Bonzanigo L, et al.: Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty. Washington, DC: The World Bank, 2015.

Ilbeigi M, Jagupilla SCK: An empirical analysis of association between socioeconomic factors and communities’ exposure to natural hazards. Sustainability. 2020; 12(16): 6342.

Frazier TG, Thompson CM, Dezzani RJ: A framework for the development of the SERV model: A spatially explicit resilience-vulnerability model. Appl Geogr. 2014; 51: 158-172.

Tierney K: The Social Roots of Risk: Producing Disasters, Promoting Resilience. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014.

Christoplos I, Mitchell J, Liljelund A: Re-framing risk: The changing context of disaster mitigation and preparedness. Disasters. 2001; 25(3): 185-198.

Munir K, Ergene T, Tunaligil V, et al.: A window of opportunity for the transformation of national mental health policy in Turkey following two major earthquakes. Harvard Rev Psychiatry. 2004; 12(4): 238-251.

Birkmann J, Buckle P, Jaeger J, et al.: Extreme events and disasters: A window of opportunity for change? Analysis of organizational, institutional and political changes, formal and informal responses after mega-disasters. Nat Hazards. 2010; 55(3): 637-655.

McSweeney K, Coomes OT: Climate-related disaster opens a window of opportunity for rural poor in northeastern Honduras. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2011; 108(13): 5203-5208.

Wachinger G, Renn O, Begg C, et al.: The risk perception paradox—Implications for governance and communication of natural hazards. Risk Anal. 2013; 33(6): 1049-1065.

Mochizuki J, Chang SE: Disasters as opportunity for change: Tsunami recovery and energy transition in Japan. Int J Disaster Risk Reduct. 2017; 21: 331-339.

Moser SC: Impact assessments and policy responses to sea-level rise in three US states: An exploration of human-dimension uncertainties. Global Environ Change. 2005; 15(4): 353-369.

De Vries DH: Temporal vulnerability and the post-disaster ‘window of opportunity to woo’: A case study of an African-American floodplain neighborhood after Hurricane Floyd in North Carolina. Hum Ecol. 2017; 45(4): 437-448.

Brundiers K, Eakin HC: Leveraging post-disaster windows of opportunities for change towards sustainability: A framework. Sustainability. 2018; 10(5): 1390.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): Definition of terms used within the DDC pages. Available at Accessed October 22, 2020.

Islam N, Winkel J: Climate change and social inequality. 2017. DESA Working Paper No. 152 ST/ESA/2017/DWP/152. Available at Accessed December 3, 2020.

Hallegatte S, Vogt-Schilb A, Bangalore M, et al.: Unbreakable: Building the Resilience of the Poor in the Face of Natural Disasters. Washington, DC: World Bank Publications, 2016.

Klein N: The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York, NY: Macmillan, 2007.

Leichenko R, Silva JA: Climate change and poverty: Vulnerability, impacts, and alleviation strategies. Wiley Interdiscipl Rev Clim Change. 2014; 5(4): 539-556.

Eriksen SH, O’brien K: Vulnerability, poverty and the need for sustainable adaptation measures. Clim Policy. 2007; 7(4): 337-352.

Runhaar H, Wilk B, Persson Å, et al.: Mainstreaming climate adaptation: Taking stock about “what works” from empirical research worldwide. Reg Environ Change. 2018; 18(4): 1201-1210.

McShane MK, Yusuf J-E: Toward better management of flood losses: Flood insurance in a wetter world. Public Works Manag Policy. 2019; 24(1): 88-109.

Wood E, Miller SK: Cognitive dissonance and disaster risk communication. J Emerg Manag Disaster Commun. 2020; 1(2): 1-18.

Solecki WD, Michaels S: Looking through the post-disaster policy window. Environ Manag. 1994; 18(4): 587-595.

Manyena B, O’Brien G, O’Keefe P, et al.: Disaster resilience: A bounce back or bounce forward ability? Local Environ Int J Justice Sustain. 2011; 16(5): 417-424.

Mockrin MH, Fishler HK, Stewart SI: Does wildfire open a policy window? Local government and community adaptation after fire in the United States. Environ Manag. 2018; 62(2): 210-228.

Giridharadas A: Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. New York City: Vintage, 2019.

Price CC, Edwards KA: Trends in income from 1975 to 2018. Working Papers—Rand Corporation, 2020. DOI: 10.7249/WRA516-1.

Bregman R: Utopia for Realists: And How we Can Get There. London, United Kingdom: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017.

London School of Economics (LSE): Keeping tax low for the rich does not boost economy. 2020. Available at Accessed October 22, 2020.

Alexander DE: The game changes: “disaster prevention and management” after a quarter of a century. Disaster Preven Manag. 2016; 25: 2-10.

Ostadtaghizadeh A, Ali A, Douglas P, et al.: Community disaster resilience: A systematic review on assessment models and tools. PLoS Curr. 2015; 7.

Fema A: Whole community approach to emergency management: Principles, themes, and pathways for action. In Federal Emergency Management Agency. Washington DC: US Department of Homeland Security, 2011.

International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC): What is vulnerability? Available at Accessed November 7, 2020.

Tate E: Social vulnerability indices: A comparative assessment using uncertainty and sensitivity analysis. Nat Hazards. 2012; 63(2): 325-347.

Elder K, Xirasagar S, Miller N, et al.: African Americans’ decisions not to evacuate New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina: A qualitative study. Am J Public Health. 2007; 97(Suppl. 1): S124-S129.

National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC): Out of reach—The high cost of housing report. 2020. Available at Accessed September 29, 2020.

US Federal Reserve: Report on the economic well-being of US households in 2018. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. 2019. Available at Accessed December 2, 2020.

Klein N: On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2019.

Daoud A, Halleröd B, Guha-Sapir D: What is the association between absolute child poverty, poor governance, and natural disasters? A global comparison of some of the realities of climate change. PloS One. 2016; 11(4): e0153296. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0153296.

Finch WH, Hernández Finch ME: Poverty and Covid-19: Rates of incidence and deaths in the United States during the first 10 weeks of the pandemic. Front Sociol. 2020; 5: 47.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 Journal of Emergency Management