Methods: Data and sample: We pooled data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 2017, 2018, and 2019 National Household Survey, which were matched with the county-level Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The working sample included 11,287 individuals from 1212 counties.
Measures: The dependent variable was individuals’ disaster preparedness. Respondents were asked “Thinking about preparing yourself for a disaster, have you developed and discussed an action plan with your family, that includes information about how to leave your community or where to shelter, and have set aside supplies such as, food, water, and other essentials that allow you to be self-sufficient for at least three days?” Answers were coded from 0 (I have NOT prepared, and I do not intend to prepare in the next year) to 4 (I have been preparing for MORE than a year). A higher score indicated better disaster preparedness. Race was categorized as White, African American, Asian American (reference), and Native American. The SVI included 15 county-level factors in 4 major areas, namely, socioeconomic status, household composition/disability, minority status/language, and housing/transportation.
Analysis: Multilevel modeling was used to examine how county-level characteristics moderated racial differences in individual disaster preparedness.
Results: Asian Americans were the least prepared among all racial groups. While the nation generally enjoyed improved disaster preparedness in 2019 than in 2017, Asian American’s disadvantages expanded over time. The disadvantages of Asian Americans relative to the White were smaller in communities with higher percentages of households without vehicles and higher percentages of multiunit housing, but bigger in communities with higher percentages of children and mobile homes. The disadvantages of Asian Americans relative to African Americans were smaller in communities with higher percentages of multiunit housing. The disadvantages of Asian Americans relative to Native Americans were smaller in communities with higher percentages of households without vehicles, higher percentages of multiunit housing, and higher per capita income, but bigger in communities with higher percentages of older adults and mobile homes.
Conclusions and Implications: The findings highlighted the vulnerabilities of Asian Americans to disasters because of their lower levels of disaster preparedness. The expanded disadvantages of Asian Americans over time are particularly alarming. A complex pattern was found concerning how community vulnerabilities contextualized racial differences. Social service agencies and emergency management should carefully examine individual and community characteristics when designing cultural-sensitive outreach and education programs.