The Impacts of Ecological Disasters on Social Mobility and Economic Security

Awarded Scholars:
Anna C. Rhodes, Rice University
Max Besbris, Rice University
Project Date:
May 2019
Award Amount:

Low-income households and communities are typically more susceptible to the effects of disasters than are their middle-class counterparts. However, climate change is making weather-related events more severe, and disasters like the California wildfires and Hurricanes Sandy, Irma, Harvey, Michael, and Florence have significantly affected middle- and high-income households and communities. Since October 2017, sociologists Anna Rhodes and Max Besbris have conducted two waves of interviews with 59 flooded households in Friendswood, Texas, a suburban middle-class town where over 3,000 homes flooded during Hurricane Harvey. They will analyze the extent to which disasters impact middle-class households and neighborhoods and the extent to which differences in financial and social support increase inequality across affected households within middle-class communities post-disaster. They will also explore how flood victims make decisions about whether or not to return to their flooded homes, how and to what extent to reinvest in their property, and the sources of financial and social support they receive during recovery.

Supplemental RSF funding (June 2021) will support new interviews with respondents (N=10) from the original sample, including both those who did and did not experience damage from the February 2021 winter storm that led to blackouts for millions of Texan households and water infrastructure failure. This winter storm allows the investigators to examine how residents affected by multiple disasters understand and navigate recovery, make-sense of their vulnerability, and plan for the future.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


The Russell Sage Foundation offers grants and positions in our Visiting Scholars program for research.


Join our mailing list for email updates.