Social capital and disaster preparedness among low income Mexican Americans in a disaster prone area

Belinda M. Reininger, Mohammad H. Rahbar, Min Jae Lee, Zhongxue Chen, Sartaj R. Alam, Jennifer Pope, Barbara Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Examination of social capital and its relationship to disaster preparedness has grown in prominence partially due to world-wide need to effectively respond to terrorist attacks, viral epidemics, or natural disasters. Recent studies suggested that social capital may be related to a community's ability to plan for and respond to such disasters. Few studies, however, have examined social capital constructs among low income populations living in disaster prone areas and accounted for the influence of social capital at the individual and community level. We examined social capital as measured by perceived fairness, perceived civic trust, perceived reciprocity and group membership.We undertook a multistage random cluster survey in three coastal counties in Texas (U.S.) noted for their high levels of poverty. Individuals from 3088 households provided data on social capital, socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, and self-reported level of preparedness for a hurricane. We used multivariable logistic regression to test potential associations between social capital measures and disaster preparedness.After adjusting for age, gender, marital status, ethnicity, education, employment, household income, acculturation, self-reported health, special needs persons in household, household size, and distance to the shore we found a higher prevalence of preparedness among individuals who reported the highest perception of fairness [AOR = 3.12, 95% CI: (1.86, 5.21)] compared to those individuals who reported lowest perceptions of fairness. We also found a higher prevalence of preparedness [AOR = 2.06; 95% CI: (1.17, 3.62)] among individuals who reported highest perceptions of trust compared to individuals who reported lowest perceptions of trust. Perceived reciprocity and group membership were not associated with preparedness.These results extend previous findings on social capital and disaster preparedness and further characterize social capital's presence among a low income population living in a hurricane prone area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)50-60
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Disaster
  • Fairness
  • Low-income
  • Mexican Americans
  • Preparedness
  • Social capital
  • Trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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