Demographics of Social Vulnerability

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Social vulnerability is “the characteristics of a person or group in terms of their capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the impact of a natural hazard. It involves a combination of factors that determine the degree to which someone’s life and livelihood are put at risk by a discrete and identifiable event in nature or in society (Zurich, 2010).” The difference between social and physical vulnerability is physiological versus psychological. People’s physical vulnerability refers to their susceptibility to biological changes (i.e., impacts on anatomical structures and physiological functioning), whereas their social vulnerability refers to their susceptibility to behavioral changes (Lindell, Prater, & Perry, 2006). Three demographic characteristics that play into social vulnerability are gender, age, and ethnicity.
One of the more controversial topics still existing in the United States outside of race is gender. In most cases, women’s standards are still well below those of men, even after centuries of progression. This also plays a significant factor in social vulnerabilities. The biggest example of this is a woman’s role outside of the corporate world. Women are also more vulnerable to disasters because of their roles as mothers and caregivers: when disaster is about to strike, their ability to seek safety is restricted by their responsibilities to the very young and the very old, both of whom require help and supervision companies (Rygel et al., 2006). Women are also more susceptible than men is because single moms, regardless of divorced, widowed or never-married, live a more poverty based lifestyle because of their responsibilities to their children, therefore have a harder time recovering from a disaste...

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Flanagan, B.E., Gregory, E.W., Hallisey, E.J., Heitgerd, J.L., and Lewis, B. (2011). A Social Vulnerability Index for Disaster Management. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. 8(1), 3-6.

Perry, R.W., Prater, C.S., & Lindell, M.K. (2006). Fundamentals of Emergency Management. Retrieved from

Rygel, L., O’Sullivan, D., and Yarnal, B. (2006). A Method for Constructing a Social Vulnerability Index: An Application to Hurricane Storm Surges in a Developed Country. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change. 11, 741-764. DOI: 10.1007/s11027-006-0265-6.
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