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Social vulnerability to Hurricane Harvey: Unmet needs and adverse event experiences in Greater Houston, Texas

Authors: Aaron Flores*, University of Utah, Timothy Collins, University of Utah, Sara Grineski, University of Utah, Jayajit Chakraborty, University of Texas at El Paso
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Hazards and Vulnerability
Keywords: Social vulnerability; disasters; needs assessment; adverse event experiences; Hurricane Harvey
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas Gulf Coast, causing record flooding in the Houston metropolitan statistical area (“Greater Houston”). Our study assesses unmet needs and adverse event experiences of Greater Houstonians during and after Harvey using a suite of indicators of social vulnerability and disaster impacts. Indicators of social vulnerability have not been well-integrated within US post-disaster needs assessment protocols. Using data collected within four months of Hurricane Harvey via a structured survey that was representative of the Greater Houston population, we employed bivariate and multivariate analyses to assess differences in unmet needs and adverse event experiences based on social vulnerability characteristics. Racial/ethnic minority and lower-income households experienced significantly more unmet needs and adverse event experiences than non-Hispanic Whites and higher-income households, during and after Harvey. Within the Hispanic population, we observed differences based on nativity (US-born vs. foreign-born) and US citizenship status. Foreign-born Hispanic people without US citizenship were more likely to suffer from particular unmet needs and adverse event experiences compared to Hispanic US-citizens. Socially vulnerable minority and lower socioeconomic status residents were disproportionately affected by Harvey, indicating that improvements in US post-disaster needs assessment protocols are imperative. Needs assessments should integrate a focus on social vulnerability, so that disaster assistance may be targeted to better meet victims’ needs.

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