Empowering Women Can Have A Major Impact on Easing Harm From Climate-Based Disasters

A new study by Kelly F. Austin, an assistant professor of sociology at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Laura A. McKinney, an assistant professor of sociology at Tulane University in New Orleans, finds that women are more likely than men to be affected negatively by climate-related natural disasters such as storms, floods, and droughts.

The study also found that women who live in areas of the world where they are economically empowered have a disproportionately positive impact when disaster strikes, greatly reducing the overall devastation and loss of life.

The authors looked at climate-related disasters in 85 nations in the developing world. The found that when women were economically powered they better prepared their families, homes, and communities for approaching disaster events.

Dr. Austin

Dr. Austin

Dr. Austin reports that “our analysis illustrates a clear connection between female economic empowerment and a reduction in the total number of disaster victims. The key drivers are a tendency for women to use their earnings to meet basic needs that improve public health conditions, such as education fees, healthcare costs, clean water and sanitation services, as well as the fact that women routinely provide relief efforts to the household and broader community in the aftermath of disasters.”

Dr. McKinney

Dr. McKinney

Dr. Austin joined the faculty at Lehigh University in 2012. She is a graduate of Oregon State University and holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in sociology from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Co-author Laura A. McKinney is a graduate of the University of North Alabama. She holds a master’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University and a Ph.D. from North Carolina State University.

The study, “Disaster Devastation in Poor Nations: The Direct and Indirect Effects of Gender Equality, Ecological Losses, and Development,” was published in the journal Social Forces. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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