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An Interpretable Index of Social Vulnerability to Environmental Hazards

by Joseph V Tuccillo
Publication Type
Conference Paper
Book Title
Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Geographic Information Science
Publication Date
Publisher Location
Dagstuhl, Germany
Conference Name
The Twelfth International Conference on Geographic Information Science (GIScience)
Conference Location
Leeds, United Kingdom
Conference Sponsor
Conference Date

Index-based measures of social vulnerability to environmental hazards are commonly modeled from composites of population-level risk factors. These models overlook individual context in communities' experiences of environmental hazards, producing metrics that may hinder spatial decision support for mitigating and responding to hazards. This paper introduces an interpretable, high-resolution model for generating an individual-oriented social vulnerability index (IOSVI) for the United States built on synthetic populations that couples individual and social determinants of vulnerability. The IOSVI combines an individual vulnerability index (IVI) that ranks individuals in an area’s synthetic population based on intersecting risk factors, with a social vulnerability index (SVI) based on the population’s cumulative distribution of IVI scores. Interpretability of the IOSVI procedure is demonstrated through examples of national, metropolitan, and neighborhood (census tract) level spatial variation in index scores and IVI themes, as well as an exploratory analysis examining risk factors affecting a specific sub-population (military veterans) in areas of high social and environmental vulnerability.