Climate Related Disasters and Children’s Health: Evidence From Hurricane Harvey

January 23, 2023

2022 Wall Scholar Ethan Raker (Sociology) recently published in Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World.

Climate Related Disasters and Children’s Health: Evidence from Hurricane Harvey looks at how children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including exposure to increasingly severe extreme weather events, such as tropical cyclones, floods, and heat waves.

The climate-health nexus in childhood is of critical interest empirically and theoretically to social demographers applying a life-course perspective to inter- and intragenerational processes, environmental sociologists studying climate change and disasters, and medical sociologists interested in understanding the fundamental causes of health disparities.

Raker, E. J. (2022). Climate-Related Disasters and Children’s Health: Evidence from Hurricane Harvey. Socius8

Raker’s research uses data from the 2017-18 Health of Houston survey that was interrupted in the field by Hurricane Harvey, one of costliest disasters in U.S. history, and resumed six months later. He linked this survey data to flooding estimates from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and interviewed adults about a randomly selected focal child living in the household. 

His research found Hurricane Harvey led to worse parent-reported health among children six to nine months later, particularly in flooded communities. Additional evidence suggests that post-disaster children’s health correlates most strongly with disaster-induced disruption to household life and home damage, compared with household income loss. Further associational evidence shows a larger, negative relationship between health and severe household exposure for immigrant children, Hispanic, Asian or other-race children.

Raker was interviewed about his research in the SAGE Sociology podcast — listen here.