Low-Income Communities More Vulnerable to Natural Disasters
BIRMINGHAM – 30 of the 36 Alabama counties that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has declared eligible for individual disaster assistance have poverty rates higher than the national average.
“Natural disasters hit high poverty communities the hardest,” says Kristina Scott, Executive Director of the Alabama Poverty Project (APP).
According to the US Census Bureau, 14.3 percent of Americans live below the federal poverty threshold. The poverty threshold is determined by age and number of people in a household and was $21,756 for a two-adult, two-child household in 2009, the most recent year for which poverty data is available.
The Census Bureau also reports that 16.5 percent of Alabamians live in poverty. Ten of the tornado-impacted counties have poverty rates greater than 20 percent, including Choctaw (22.8 percent), DeKalb (21.7 percent), Franklin (21.8 percent), Greene (28.4 percent), Hale (26.6 percent), Marengo (24.9 percent), Marion (21.2 percent), Pickens (28 percent), Sumter (35.1 percent) and Winston Counties (24.9 percent). A full list of impacted counties with key poverty data is attached. More information is also available on the APP website at http://alabamapossible.org/datasheet/.
In their 2004 report "Poverty and Disasters in the United States", Sociologists Alice Fothergill and Lori Peek conclude that while poor individuals are more likely to perceive hazards as risky, they are less likely to prepare for hazards or buy insurance; less likely to respond to warnings; more likely to die, suffer injuries, and have proportionately higher material losses; have more psychological trauma; and face more obstacles during the phases of response, recovery, and reconstruction.
In response to the catastrophic tornadoes, APP is compiling resources for individuals to give, volunteer and advocate for those impacted by the storms. They are regularly updated and available at http://alabamapossible.org/tornadorelief
About the Alabama Poverty Project:
Alabama is the sixth poorest state in the nation. The Alabama Poverty Project (APP) mobilizes Alabamians to eliminate poverty through strategic relationships with faith communities, higher education institutions and civic organizations. For information and resources visit our website, http://alabamapossible.org.