Unequal social vulnerability to Hurricane Sandy flood exposure

W. Lieberman-Cribbin
C. Gillezeau
R. M. Schwartz, Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell
E. Taioli


© 2020, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature America, Inc. Disparities exist in post-disaster flooding exposure and vulnerable populations bear a disproportionate impact of this exposure. We describe the unequal burden of flooding in a cohort of New York residents following Hurricane Sandy and assess whether the likelihood of flooding was distributed equally according to socioeconomic demographics, and whether this likelihood differed when analyzing self-reported or FEMA flood exposure measures. Residents of New York City and Long Island completed a self-administered survey 1.5–4.0 years after the storm. Multivariable logistic regressions were performed to determine the relationship between sociodemographic characteristics and flood exposure. Participants (n = 1231) residing in areas of the lowest two quartiles of median household income experienced flooding the most often (FEMA/self-reported: <$40,298: 65.3%/42.0%, $40,298–$67,188: 43.3%/32.1%), and these areas contained the highest proportions of non-White participants (<$40,298: 39.1%, $40,298–$67,188: 36.6%) and those with ≤high school education (<$40,298: 35.5%, $40,298–$67,188: 33.6%). Both self-report (p < 0.05) and FEMA (p < 0.05) flood measures indicated that older participants were more likely to live in a household exposed to flooding, while those living in higher-income areas had decreased likelihood of flooding (p < 0.0001). Socioeconomic and age disparities were present in exposure to flooding during Hurricane Sandy. Future disaster preparedness responses must understand flooding from an environmental justice perspective to create effective strategies that minimize disproportionate exposure and its adverse outcomes.