Social Capital and the Distribution of Disaster Recovery Aid: Increased equality or inequality?

Authors: Cristina Muñoz*, University of Iowa
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Social Geography, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: disaster aid, disaster recovery, social capital, recovery justice, spatial analysis
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Napoleon B1, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Disasters often devastate community capacity to recover, and external resources such as federal aid become important recovery resources. However, recent research has documented inequitable distribution of disaster aid among communities of color and low-income neighborhoods, which contributes to social inequalities and unjust recovery. Scholarship suggests that increase access to recovery resources, such as aid, can be facilitated by social capital, defined as the investment in social relations for the potential to access resources embedded in social networks. However, much is still unknown about how social capital increases access, and if it also increases access to communities of color and low-income neighborhoods.

This research evaluates the spatial distribution of federal aid, public assistance and mitigation assistance, across the 50 states and territories of the United States between 2000 and 2016. The research is guided by three research questions:

(1) To what extent is federal aid equitably distributed among communities of color and low-income neighborhoods.
(2) To what extent do communities with greater social capital gain higher access to federal aid?
(3) Does social capital exacerbate or ameliorate inequalities in access to recovery resources?

A social capital index is developed which models bonding, bridging, and linking social capital relationships at the county level. Social capital, income, and percent minority are regressed to dollar amounts of aid received, while controlling for damage. I apply econometric modeling to account for spatial dependencies in the data. The extent to which federal aid is equitably distributed among low-income, minority, and communities with social capital is discussed.

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