Social vulnerability to floods: Review of case studies and implications for measurement

Samuel Rufat, Eric Tate, Christopher G. Burton, Abu Sayeed Maroof

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

488 Scopus citations


A leading challenge in measuring social vulnerability to hazards is for output metrics to better reflect the context in which vulnerability occurs. Through a meta-analysis of 67 flood disaster case studies (1997-2013), this paper profiles the leading drivers of social vulnerability to floods. The results identify demographic characteristics, socioeconomic status, and health as the leading empirical drivers of social vulnerability to damaging flood events. However, risk perception and coping capacity also featured prominently in the case studies, yet these factors tend to be poorly reflected in many social vulnerability indicators. The influence of social vulnerability drivers varied considerably by disaster stage and national setting, highlighting the importance of context in understanding social vulnerability precursors, processes, and outcomes. To help tailor quantitative indicators of social vulnerability to flood contexts, the article concludes with recommendations concerning temporal context, measurability, and indicator interrelationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)470-486
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Safety Research
  • Geology


  • Case studies
  • Flood
  • Indicators
  • Social vulnerability


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