Date of Award

Spring 2017

Project Type


Program or Major

Social Work

Degree Name

Master of Social Work

First Advisor

BoRin Kim

Second Advisor

Anita Tucker

Third Advisor

Melissa Wells


Objective: Older adults are one of the most vulnerable populations impacted by disasters and communities continue to struggle addressing preparedness. This study investigated to what extent income status and race/ethnicity in old age interplayed with disaster preparedness.

Methods: Data came from the 2010 Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative panel survey of older Americans over 51 years old. Our sample was restricted to respondents who participated in a special survey about disaster preparedness (N=1,705). Disaster preparedness was measured as a score, which includes 13 variables related to personal, household, program, and medical preparedness. Race/ethnicity was categorized by White, Black, and Hispanic. Low income was defined as below 300% of the federal poverty line. OLS regression was used to examine the main and interaction effects of race/ethnicity and lower income status on disaster preparedness scores.

Results: We found that older adults in lower income status had lower preparedness level than those in higher income (Coef.=-0.318, p<.01). Hispanics tend to be less prepared compared to White and African Americans (Coef.=--0.548, p<.001). Preparedness of Black elders was not significantly different from that of Whites. However, interestingly, Black elders in lower income status were significantly less prepared for disaster than other groups (Coef.=-0.520, p<.05). We did not find significant interaction effects between Hispanic and lower income status on disaster preparedness.

Discussion. This study identified vulnerable subgroups of older adults for disaster preparedness and suggests that preparedness programs should target minority and low income elders, particularly Hispanics and low income Black elders.