Does coastal weather risk affect the socioeconomic structures of coastal communities?
Environmental disasters, whether natural or anthropogenic, create shocks and disruptions in local economies. The long-term socio-economic well-being of coastal communities includes economic resilience – the ability of local economies to withstand the impacts of environmental disasters. A conventional wisdom in economics is that economic diversity promotes stability, by allowing for the local economy to be less sensitive to exogenous fluctuations. When a disaster occurs in an economically diverse region, the region should be abler to adapt to the new circumstances and restore or reach expected economic performance. This project investigates whether spatial associations exist in economic diversity scores and whether higher weather risks are associated with higher diversification as a counter-mechanism. I find that in the U.S. South, significant spatial association exists in industrial diversity measures at the community level, and that there exists a weak positive relationship between industrial diversity and weather risk. To quickly identify communities with high dependence on marine ecosystem services, marine economic diversity indicators were constructed using business location raw data. Further research is needed to investigate the nuanced nexus between physical risk, social stability, and economic structures when considering community resilience as a concept and a measure for long-term monitoring and policy.
Following this work, I obtained grant funding from The Center for Science and Society to enable three undergraduate students studying at Barnard College and Columbia College to complete a summer research project, where they used QGIS software to translate the resulting economic diversity indicators into usable map products. They successfully visualized the data from eight southeastern states into map products that provide a state-by-state view of the economic diversity indicators.They presented their products and findings at a meeting at the National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Regional Office in St. Petersburg, FL. In attendance were several NMFS Economists and Social Scientists.