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Community Development


Social Ties, Space, and Resilience: Literature Review of Community Resilience to Disasters and Constituent Social and Built Environment Factors

Ann Carpenter, PhD
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
Community and Economic Development Department
Discussion Paper 2013-2
September 2013

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Communities have faced a variety of crises in recent decades, including more frequent and severe natural disasters. As applied to disasters, resilience entails the ability of a community to rebound following a hurricane, earthquake, or other disturbance. Given the importance of resilience in promoting an effective recovery, the factors that contribute to community resilience are of great interest to scholars and practitioners in many fields. Recent work has examined, for example, socioeconomic indicators that contribute to greater social vulnerability and organizational structures that contribute to a more effective recovery. The importance of strong social networks in resilience is among the most oft-repeated lessons learned in recent scholarship. This paper examines the intersection of three connected threads in the literature to understand one particular aspect of resilience: how the built environment contributes to greater resilience by supporting and encouraging strong social networks. Given that social networks positively influence resilience and that the built environment exerts influence on social networks, this literature review examines evidence linking strong social networks, a varied and integrated built environment, and greater resilience.

JEL Classification: Q54

Key words: disaster resilience, hazards, social networks, built environment


The author would like to thank Michael Elliott, John Peponis, Daniel Immergluck, Harley Etienne, and Steve French for their advisement. The views expressed here are the author's and not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta or the Federal Reserve System. Any remaining errors are the author's responsibility.

Comments to the author are welcome at ann.carpenter@atl.frb.org.