Social protection and absorptive capacity: Disaster preparedness and social welfare policy in the United States


Climate change exacerbates drivers of impoverishment, necessitating a more robust evidence base to inform policy and action. Recent studies have examined how social protection programs tie into climate action and disaster risk reduction globally; however, this remains underexamined in high-income country contexts. Our study aims to address this gap by investigating the association between social protection and disaster preparedness in the United States. We hypothesize that reducing household vulnerability through welfare recipience builds long-term resilience and capacity for better risk-mitigation decisions. We examined how households prepare for a disaster and conceptualized disaster preparedness as a capability at the household level using nationally representative data from the American Housing Surveys 2017. The study employed multiple regression analyses and the Karlson/Holm/Breen method to decompose the total, direct, and indirect effects of welfare recipience on the association between household social vulnerabilities and disaster preparedness. On average, households scored 5.01 on a nine-item preparedness scale; higher preparedness was positively associated with higher income and education, a male household head, the presence of an older adult, and non-welfare recipience. Welfare recipience mediated the association of disaster preparedness with the presence of a person with a disability at home, socioeconomic status, and race. This analysis strengthens the hypothesis that welfare recipience could potentially mediate disaster preparedness capabilities among households, pointing to a probable shock absorber effect that can offset vulnerabilities experienced by communities.


Social Work

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World Development



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