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Abstract: In the years ahead, U.S. society faces two major challenges already underway: rising wealth inequality and rising natural disaster costs. To understand their intersection, this talk will first discuss the need to move away from an event-centered approach to disasters to engage a more longitudinal, population-centered approach. It will then present an empirical demonstration of that approach using 15 years of data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Findings indicate that rising disaster costs are contributing significantly to growing wealth inequalities along racial and class lines. Findings also indicate that federal disaster assistance is exacerbating those trends. The implication is that disasters do not simply reveal social inequalities, they contribute to them in ways that will play out long into future if business as usual continues.
Bio: Jim Elliott is a professor of sociology at Rice University. His scholarship focuses on urbanization, social inequality and the environment, with the latter conceptualized in both social and ecological terms. In both his research and teaching, Elliott uses Houston as a laboratory for advancing understanding of socio-environmental transformation and its unequal consequences. Some of his recent work has examined a range of topics, from racial inequalities in urban labor markets to social disparities in natural hazards recovery, hazardous waste accumulation, carbon emissions and industrial pollution. Elliott received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and trained as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina’s Population Center. He served as advisor to the sociology program at the National Science Foundation and co-editor of Sociological Perspectives. He currently serves on the editorial board of the journal Demography, Socius, and City & Community.
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