Disaster Devastation in Poor Nations: The Direct and Indirect Effects of Gender Equality, Ecological Losses, and Development


Austin, Kelly F., and Laura A. McKinney. 2016. “Disaster Devastation in Poor Nations: The Direct and Indirect Effects of Gender Equality, Ecological Losses, and Development.” Social Forces 95 (1): 355–80.

Authors: Kelly F. Austin, Laura A. McKinney


The purpose of this paper is to quantitatively assess the drivers of suffering from disasters across less developed nations, with specific emphasis on the gender relations that potentially mitigate the breadth of devastation across affected populations. We draw on theoretical frameworks of environmental sociology, ecofeminism, gender inequalities, and development to inform our empirical analysis, which represents structural equation modeling of 85 less developed nations. While economic, political, and to a lesser extent environmental factors have been linked, theoretically and empirically, to vulnerability to natural disaster events, few consider the potential of improving women's status to alleviate the toll of disasters on humans in affected nations. Our paper addresses this gap by theoretically developing and empirically analyzing the linkages that connect the environment, women's economic standing, and disaster vulnerability. Our findings point to the beneficial effects of improving women's status—itself conditioned by ecological and developmental factors—to limit the extent of human strife resulting from disaster events in important direct and indirect ways. Conclusions also point to interrelationships among additional social, economic, political, and ecological conditions in determining the distribution of disaster harm and death, such as ecological losses, democracy, underdevelopment, and provisions for health resources.

Topics: Development, Economies, Poverty, Environment, Environmental Disasters, Feminisms, Ecofeminism, Feminist Political Ecology, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality

Year: 2016

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