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The central question of the study is about the role that social (and kinship) networks in determining a person's success in the aftermath of a natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina. "Success" refers to the individual's capacity to obtain physical and emotional relief as well as to maintain a strong perception of eventual community recovery in the immediate disaster aftermath. Social networks serve as the glue holding individuals together, they form much of the structure from which the information comes that we use to make decisions and take actions. Social networks may protect individuals from disasters like Hurricane Katrina and they may act as an emergency response system to aid recovery after such disasters. Some social networks are strong while others are weak. Some individuals with the same level of wealth may have suffered a similar level of damage to their lives from Hurricane Katrina, but some cope well personally and economically while others do not. Many individual attributes affect the responses as do attributes of social networks. Understanding the attributes of these social networks could prove valuable in both preparing for and recovering from future disasters. For example, extensive local area family ties, strong ties with neighbors, or the development of neighborhood and civic organizations may each be key to having people both be better prepared for a future disaster and recover from it. If so, then for those communities without strong local family ties, the neighborhood and civic organizations may more frequently necessary to prepare for disaster preparation. . To study the role that social networks play, the researchers will conduct a field survey in Hancock and Harrison counties, two of the hardest counties in the Mississippi Gulf Coast region. The survey instruments will measure the strength and number of kinship and neighbor relationships for individuals within various Mississippi Gulf Coast communities. The analysis will provide a measure of bonding and bridging networks within their immediate community. Measures of personal relief and perceptions of recovery will be examined in a statistical analysis. A similar analysis will be used to look at the effects of individuals' social and kinship networks versus their socio-economic standings on disaster relief and recovery perceptions. The broader impact of this research is that it will enhance the ability of communities and groups to understand how aspects of public policy, health, safety and public welfare can be addressed in advance and in the aftermath of catastrophic natural events by identifying community social networks.

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Last Modified: 9-June-2006
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