Why Natural Disasters Worsen Minorities Net Worth

CBx Vibe:Apocalypse” Wyclef Jean

By Tracey Goins

  • People of color lose an average of $29K after a natural disaster
  • Natural disasters cost the U.S. $91B in 2019

Damages caused by natural disasters and recovery efforts have worsened wealth inequality among different ethnicities in the United States. Nearly 50% of U.S. counties experience a disaster each year, and areas that are particularly disaster prone rapidly diminish wealth in those communities. Natural disasters cost the country $91 billion in 2019 and nowhere are the economic and racial inequities of disaster aid more evident than in areas that have experienced urban flooding.

Why This Matters: Despite national economic loss, white people living in counties with considerable damage from natural disasters accumulate more wealth than their counterparts living in counties without major natural disaster damage. Reportedly their wealth increases in some cases as much as $126,000. Post disaster outcomes among Blacks, Latinos and Asians, the results went the other direction as their net worth decreased by as much as $29,000.

Post disaster outcomes among Blacks, Latinos and Asians, the results went the other direction as their net worth decreased by as much as $29,000

Impoverished communities have historically lacked resources and are vulnerable to flooding due to improper planning by city officials and emergency management. There may be no greater evidence of this than Hurricane Katrina. Now, more than a decade later, the federal government’s grossly indifferent response to the plight of low-income Blacks during this storm laid bare how poverty, economic inequality, and racial injustice impact the delivery of disaster relief. It is commonly accepted that FEMA aid is not distributed equitably across communities, directly suggesting the government does not respond to communities of color in the same manner as other ethnic groups.

Hurricane Dorian that slammed the Bahamas and parts of the East Coast still need government relief, for a storm that has claimed the lives of nearly 60 people and displaced around 70,000. Private companies have pledged resources to help, where government assistance appears to be waning. While natural disasters do not discriminate, their long-term impact disproportionately falls on low-income communities of color.

Situational Awareness:  When certain areas receive more redevelopment aid following a natural disaster, racial inequality is going to be amplified. The manner in which government relief is provided directly links to the growing wealth gap from FEMA assistance, or lack thereof, directly contributing to these disparities. Additionally, minorities are more likely to have properties that are either uninsured or ill-insured for natural disasters, resulting in permanent property loss.

CBx Vibe:Apocalypse” Wyclef Jean


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