Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Geography, Environment and Planning

Major Professor

Jayajit Chakraborty, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Pratyusha Basu, Ph.D.

Committee Member

M. Martin Bosman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lisa Brown, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth Strom, Ph.D.


disaster policy, flood, health, recovery, rural


Federal disaster declarations are authorized by the president under the provisions of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988. Prior studies have found varying levels of political influence associated with the declaration process. Factors including electoral votes, reelection years, congressional committee appointments, geographic location, and party favoritism have been implicated in claims of inequity associated with the distribution of federal disaster assistance. Compounding these concerns is evidence of recurring problems associated with disparities in the long-term recovery from disasters based on social and economic factors. This dissertation is a response to the call for further research into the political dynamics of disaster declarations. Multivariate hierarchical analytical techniques and key stakeholder interviews were utilized to systematically investigate perceived inequities in the implementation of federal disaster policy and the consequences of those inequities with respect to health-related recovery in communities that had differential access to federal resources. The research findings counter broad claims of political motive in the distribution of federal resources after disasters. However, the observation of a disproportionate post disaster stress-related disease burden in portions of the study area is indicative of a procedural inequity that must be addressed. The recently enacted Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 calls for a review of eligibility criteria for disaster declarations. The findings of this research are intended to contribute to the review process and assist in the reformulation of public policy in order to address the unique needs of previously unconsidered at-risk populations.