Social Capital and Disaster Resilience in the Ninth Ward

23 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2018

See all articles by Patrick Roberts

Patrick Roberts

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University

Date Written: September 7, 2018


English Abstract: The conventional wisdom in disaster management is that communities exhibiting social capital are more likely to bounce back after disaster. This paper examines the link between social capital and resilience to disasters and climate change through an examination of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood before and after Hurricane Katrina. Using archives and interviews to examine the neighborhood’s recovery, the paper finds evidence for the existence of social capital and the properties of community resilience in the Lower Ninth Ward before the storm. Social capital and resilience proved to be fragile because the neighborhood was particularly vulnerable and lacked political power. Attempts to use social capital and community resilience alone as part of a strategy to combat climate change should take into account older notions of vulnerability and political power as important ingredients in community well-being.

Spanish Abstract: Este artículo analiza la relación entre capital social y resiliencia ante los desastres y ante el cambio climático a través de una observación del barrio de Lower Ninth Ward de Nueva Orleans antes y después del huracán Katrina. Utilizando archivos y entrevistas para examinar la recuperación de esa área, el artículo encuentra pruebas de que ya antes del huracán había capital social y las cualidades propias de la resiliencia comunitaria en el Lower Ninth Ward. El capital social y la resiliencia resultaron ser frágiles porque el barrio era especialmente vulnerable y carecía de poder político. Los intentos de utilizar el capital social y la resiliencia comunitaria como parte de la estrategia para combatir el cambio climático deberían fijarse en nociones más antiguas de vulnerabilidad y de poder político como ingredientes importantes para el bienestar comunitario.

Keywords: Social capital, disasters, climate change, New Orleans, recovery, social equity, Capital social, desastres, cambio climático, Nueva Orleans, recuperación, igualdad social

Suggested Citation

Roberts, Patrick, Social Capital and Disaster Resilience in the Ninth Ward (September 7, 2018). Oñati Socio-Legal Series, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Patrick Roberts (Contact Author)

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University ( email )

Center for Public Administration and Policy
School of Public and International Affairs
Blacksburg, VA 24061
United States

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