Do Disasters Exacerbate Vulnerabilities More for the Already Vulnerable? A Case Study of Cyclone Pam’s Influence on Social Vulnerability in Vanuatu

Hugh Roland , University of Wisconsin-Madison

This case study explores if, following a natural disaster, more vulnerable populations experience a greater increase in their level of social vulnerability compared to populations less vulnerable at baseline. Demographic and environmental health, housing, and economic measures are used to operationalize social vulnerability and compare changes in the South Pacific country Vanuatu before and after Cyclone Pam, which struck in 2015, using data from the 2009 census and 2016 mini census. I investigate vulnerability indexes to design and assess key indicators relevant for developing and largely rural, resource-dependent contexts like Vanuatu. Using a two-stage analytical approach, I estimate the relative impact of key indicators using a principal component analysis, after which three groups of reduced indicators are compared pre- and post-cyclone using linear regressions. Results will reveal whether higher baseline vulnerability is associated with greater changes in vulnerability and which indicators are most affected by the shock.

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 Presented in Session 3. Population, Development, & the Environment; Data & Methods; Applied Demography