Jacobs, Fayola Helen (2018-08). Insuring Inequity: An Intersectional Analysis of the Community Rating System. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • Although research has long shown that women, people of color and low-income communities are more vulnerable to natural hazards, the disproportionate effects of Hurricane Katrina and subsequent disaster response efforts forced the national spotlight on the systemic nature of racism, classism and sexism. Since disaster policy has the potential to create and exacerbate inequalities, it is essential that we examine even supposedly neutral disaster-related programs and policies with a critical eye. This dissertation is an analysis of one such neutral program, the National Flood Insurance Program's (NFIP) Community Rating System (CRS). I explore and employ four theories to conduct an equity analysis of the CRS: rational disaster management; social vulnerability; environmental justice and intersectionality. I create regression models based on each of the theories' consideration (or lack thereof) of race, class and gender to determine how hazard exposure, community capacity and the race, class and gender makeup of jurisdictions and their floodplains affect their participation in the CRS and their investment in flood mitigation polices that raise their standing in CRS. The results of this dissertation suggest that the racial makeup of jurisdictions' floodplains affects the flood mitigation actions undertaken, or more accurately, not undertaken by local jurisdictions which impacts the number of points and the discount that jurisdictions achieve in the CRS. These findings suggest that, unsurprisingly, when policies do not explicitly address race, class and gender, or, perhaps more accurately, grapple with historic legacies and current realities of racism, classism and sexism, they risk compounding injustices. Social vulnerability, as I operationalized it in the models, did not give the full picture of the ways race, class and gender impact jurisdictions' level of achievement within the CRS. The environmental justice and intersectional environmental justice models shed more light on how hazard exposure intersects with traditionally neglected communities to create unique experiences of vulnerability.

publication date

  • August 2018