December, 2017

Social Capital and Social Learning after Hurricane Sandy

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Find the article at SpringerLink.

The post-disaster context is one characterized by profound uncertainty. Those affected by the storm, or earthquake, or flood, must determine what strategies to pursue in response to the disaster and must find ways to coordinate their recovery efforts with others in their community. Ex ante it is not clear what strategies will be most effective. If communities are to recover after a disaster, community members must engender and engage in a process of social learning involving experimentation, communication, and imitation. This paper explores the post-disaster social learning process. Specifically, we focus on the importance of social capital in facilitating social learning after a disaster, including facilitating community members’ ability to communicate their desire to return, to assess damage, to overcome barriers to rebuilding through collective yet voluntary action, and to learn from and imitate others’ successes. Focusing on how this process took place after Hurricane Sandy in Rockaway, New York, especially within the Orthodox Jewish community, we examine how community groups (a) adapted existing organization structures and (b) created new procedures and imitated the successful actions of others in order to spur recovery.