Socioeconomic distributional impacts of evaluating flood mitigation activities using equity-weighted benefit-cost analysis

Joseph W. Lockwood, Michael Oppenheimer, Ning Lin, Jesse Gourevitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As the global impact of climate change intensifies, there is an urgent need for equitable and efficient climate adaptation policies. Traditional approaches for allocating public resources for climate adaptation that are based on economic benefit-cost analysis often overlook the resulting distributional inequalities. In this study, we apply equity weightings to mitigate the distributional inequalities in two key building and household level adaptation strategies under changing coastal flood hazards: property buyouts and building retrofit in New York City (NYC). Under a mid-range emissions scenario, we find that unweighted benefit cost ratios applied to residential buildings are higher for richer and non-disadvantaged census tracts in NYC. The integration of income-based equity weights alters this correlation effect, which has the potential to shift investment in mitigation towards poorer and disadvantaged census tracts. This alteration is sensitive to the value of elasticity of marginal utility, the key parameter used to calculate the equity weight. Higher values of elasticity of marginal utility increase benefits for disadvantaged communities but reduce the overall economic benefits from investments, highlighting the trade-offs in incorporating equity into adaptation planning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number074024
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


  • benefit-cost analysis
  • distributional inequalities
  • flood adaptation


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