USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development

Contents of Recent Issues

Volume 17, No. 3 (November 1999)

    Articles by:

      Judith M. Siegel, Linda B. Bourque, and Kimberley I. Shoaf, "Victimization after a Natural Disaster: Social Disorganization or Community Cohesion?" pp. 265-294.

        Contrasting notions of social disorganization and social cohesion have been offered to describe community interaction after a natural disaster.  Data were collected from three independent community samples, beginning seven months after the 1994 Northridge, California, earthquake and following in one year intervals for the two subsequent samples.  Exposure to traumatic stress (Norris 1990)—including criminal victimization—in the 12 months prior to the interview was assessed in each sample. For all traumatic stress/victimization and for each of seven individual events, rates remain flat over time (3 data points), suggesting that neither social disorganization nor social cohesion occurred after the earthquake.   Owing to the timing of the survey, respondents interviewed in the first sample only could report on pre-disaster events.  For these respondents, post-earthquake rates of traumatic stress and victimization  were compared with pre-earthquake rates.  In contrast to the trend data, reduction in rates of robbery and, to a lesser extent, major life changes suggest that an altruistic community (social cohesion) may have arisen. A third set of analyses show that severity of exposure to the earthquake does not make a contribution to traumatic stress or victimization beyond that explained by the demographic variables repeatedly found to predict vulnerability to victimization.  Last, rates of criminal victimization within Los Angeles County are compared to rates for households in the United States, using the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) for the latter.  Victimization rates are elevated in Los Angeles County, but not necessarily above what might be expected if exactly equivalent definitions of crimes had been used in our study and the national data set, and if comparable breakdowns by demographic characteristics were available in the NCVS for metropolitan areas of one million and more.  In sum, there is no indication that social disorganization follows a natural disaster, and there is minor support for the emergence of an altruistic community.

      Simon A. Bennett, "Paradigmatic Disaster?: The Crash of Trans World Airways (TWA) Flight 800," pp. 295-311.

        This paper uses two discourses—Kuhn’s (1962) formulation of the paradigm and cognitive theory (specifically that of social schemas)— to deconstruct the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB’s) investigation into the 1996 TWA Flight 800 disaster.  Following the disaster, concerns were expressed in the media that the FBI and NTSB might not be approaching the investigation with an entirely open mind.  Certainly a number of statements were made by FBI and NTSB managers that seemed to indicate a preferred conclusion as to the cause(s) of the disaster.  This paper uses social schema theory and Kuhn’s discourse on the paradigm to ascertain, on the basis of widely reported statements, the degree to which FBI and NTSB investigators stated a preference—expressed either overtly in statements, or covertly through investigative method—in the matter of causation.

      Ann Marie Major, "Gender Differences in Risk and Communication Behavior in Response to an Earthquake Prediction," pp. 313-338.

        This study examines gender differences in communication behavior, risk perception, and preparedness in response to the highly publicized New Madrid earthquake prediction for a 6.5-7.5 Richter magnitude earthquake on December 2-3, 1990.  A survey of 629 respondents in November and a follow-up survey of 496 respondents in February 1991 in the Cape Girardeau, Missouri, community provided the opportunity to assess public response to the false alarm.  The analysis includes a panel survey of 290 respondents who agreed in November to a second interview.  When compared with men, women were associated with higher levels of interpersonal discussion about the prediction and perceived higher levels of interpersonal and news media influence on their perceptions of the importance of the earthquake prediction.  Contrary to previous studies reporting higher levels of news media use for men, no gender differences in news media use were found.  A majority of studies of risk perception suggest higher levels of perceived risk for women than men.  In this study, men were associated with higher levels of risk and lower levels of preparedness.

      Douglas A. Van Belle, "Race and U.S. Foreign Disaster Aid," pp. 339-365.

        While foreign aid allocation has been shown to be highly political, disaster aid specifically has not.  Generally, one would assume that aid aimed at assisting victims of natural disasters would not be politically motivated.  Race, however, perhaps the most volatile and disputed of political variables, is often suggested in various forums as a possibly significant factor in disaster aid allocations.  This article aims to make two contributions.  First, the issue of race and U.S. disaster aid allocations is addressed by coding each recipient state according to its predominant ethnic group and using that as an independent variable in the analysis of U.S. disaster assistance allocations from 1964-1995.  Second, the possibility that different results might be produced by using location, specifically sub-Saharan Africa, is evaluated by substituting a geographical measure for the actual population characteristics as a coding for race.  Though it was initially expected that there would be a racial bias, the findings indicate that race is not a statistically significant factor.

      Valerie A. Haines, Jeanne S. Hurlbert, and John J. Beggs, "The Disaster Framing of the Stress Process: A Test of an Expanded Model," pp. 367-397.

        Studies of the negative mental health consequences of natural disasters form an important interface between environmental sociology and medical sociology.  Building upon recent developments in both fields, we develop an expanded model of the disaster framing of the stress process and test its main effects and buffer specifications with data on the preparation and short-term recovery phases of Hurricane Andrew.  We found that instrumental forms of social support ameliorated psychological distress, but we found only weak support for the buffer model.  Our results suggest that expanding the range of environmental changes that is included in conceptualizations of stress and exploring contextual effects at the personal network and local community levels would improve our understanding of the stress process inside and outside the disaster context.  They also highlight the importance of paying close attention to the types and timing of support transactions following life-threatening events.

    Book reviews by:

      Benigno E. Aquirre, on Walter Gillis Peacock, Betty Hearn Morrow, and Hugh Gladwin (Eds.), Hurricane Andrew: Ethnicity, Gender and the Sociology of Disasters, pp. 399-401.

      Bob Bolin, on Valerie Kuletz, The Tainted Desert: Environmental and Social Ruin in the American West, pp. 403-405.

      Benigno E. Aquirre, on Elliott Mittler, An Assessment of Floodplain Management in Georgia’s Flint River Basin, pp. 407-408.

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