ALICE FOTHERGILL AND LORI A. PEEK
Poor people around the world suffer the greatest disaster losses and have themost limited access to public and private recovery assets, both in developing so-cieties as well as wealthy industrialized nations like the United States (see forexample, Blaikie
, 1994; Peacock
, 1997). Socioeconomic factors playa signiﬁcant role in all areas of social life, including in disasters, as they, too, aresocial phenomenon. Sociological scholarship demonstrates that one’s location inthe social strata often determines one’s life experiences, relationships, opportun-ities, and overall life chances. At issue here is how being poor or disadvantagedaffects one’s experiences in a disaster, from risk perception, to the post-disasterreconstruction of lives and communities.During the early 1990s, social scientists who study disasters began examiningissues of vulnerability. Vulnerability, in the disaster context, is a person’s or group’s“capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist, and recover from the impact of a naturalhazard” (Blaikie
, 1994, p. 9). Scholars have found that vulnerability maybe increased due to factors such as a person’s age, gender, social class, race, andethnicity (Aptekar and Boore, 1990; Morrow and Enarson, 1998; Peacock
,1997). Somedisaster researchers now usea“socio-political ecology ofdisasters” asa theoretical framework to study disasters, as such an approach includes the criticalanalysis of minority, gender, and inequality issues in disasters (see for example,Bates, 1993; Hewitt, 1983; Peacock with Ragsdale, 1997).To continue this critical analysis, this article takes stock of what is known onthese issues of differential vulnerability. Past articles have reviewed the literatureconcerning how gender (Fothergill, 1996) and race and ethnicity (Fothergill
,1999) play a role in disaster vulnerability in the United States, but no such reviewhas been done on the literature on poverty, inequality, and disasters.
By examiningwhat is known on the topic of poverty and disasters in the United States, this reviewcan assist in identifying gaps and thus help direct future scholarship on the topic.
This paper reviews and synthesizes the literature on poverty and disasters anddiscusses the noteworthy ﬁndings, paying particular attention to research doneon U.S. populations over the last 20 years. The ﬁndings are organized into eightcategories utilized to delineate the literature review ﬁndings.
The categories arebased on the following stages of a disaster: risk perception; preparedness behavior;
In 1986, Thomas Drabek published
Human System Responses to Disaster
, a thorough reviewof the disaster literature. In this important book, he reviews data from research on socioeconomicfactors in disasters through the early 1980s. This review is designed to pick up where he left off in 1986, as well as to elaborate brieﬂy on some ﬁndings that he reported – when they assist in thediscussion of more recent research on poverty and disasters.
The authors recognize that gender, race, and class are interconnected and they have com-plex effects on human social behavior. The authors also understand the problems with separatingthese dimensions for literature reviews. Given space limitations, when possible and applicable, theintersections are explicated in the review.
This model has been used by many hazards researchers, but also criticized by some (see forexample, Neal, 1997). While not dismissing their concerns, for this review, it makes the most sensefor clarity and consistency to use the same model that was used with the gender and disasters literat-