Inequality in Resilience to Natural Disasters

Using Large-scale Mobility Data as Measurement

+ Constantine Kontokosta, Arpit Gupta, Bartosz Bończak, Boyeong Hong


While conceptual definitions provide a foundation for the study of disasters and their impacts, the challenge for researchers and practitioners alike has been to develop objective and rigorous measures of resilience that are generalizable and scalable, taking into account spatiotemporal dynamics in the response and recovery of localized communities. In this paper, we analyze mobility patterns of more than 800,000 anonymized mobile devices in Houston, Texas, representing approximately 35% of the local population, in response to Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Using changes in mobility behavior before, during, and after the disaster, we empirically define community resilience capacity as a function of the magnitude of impact and time-to-recovery. Overall, we find clear socioeconomic and racial disparities in resilience capacity and evacuation patterns. Our work provides new insight into the behavioral response to disasters and provides the basis for data-driven public sector decisions that prioritize the equitable allocation of resources to vulnerable neighborhoods.


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Constantine E. Kontokosta, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Urban Science and Planning and Director of the Civic Analytics program at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management. He also directs the Urban Intelligence Lab and holds cross-appointments at the Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) and the Department of Civil and Urban Engineering at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, and is affiliated faculty at the NYU Wagner School of Public Service.

Arpit Gupta is an Assistant Professor of Finance at New York University Leonard N. Stern School of Business.

Bartosz is a Research Scientist and Lab Manager of Dr. Constantine Kontokosta's Civic Analytics Program at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management.

Boyeong Hong is an Associate Research Scholar in the Civic Analytics Program at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management.

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