Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Political Science


Political Science

Major Professor

Rosenblum, Marc

Second Advisor

Prins, Brandon

Third Advisor

Coulter, Philip

Fourth Advisor

Laska, Shirley


While people all over the world are vulnerable to natural disasters, the available data clearly demonstrate a great deal of cross-country variance in the impact of catastrophic events. For example, while Hurricane Mitch took an estimated 13,000 lives when it struck Honduras and Nicaragua, the stronger Hurricane Andrew took only 26 lives when it impacted the United States. What factors explain this difference? Thus far, disaster researchers have emphasized economic and social vulnerability as determinants of disaster impact; the conventional wisdom accepts that poor and underdeveloped countries are more vulnerable than wealthy, developed countries. I argue that the political institutions of a country also matter and then examine the relative importance of political vulnerability as a determinant of disaster impact. I present evidence from case studies and large-N statistical analysis that demonstrates that, like social and economic vulnerability, political vulnerability is an important determinant of the impact of a natural disaster.


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