Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Ran Tao, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Gregory Herbert, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Yi Qiang, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Fernando Rivera, Ph.D.


compound disaster, COVID-19, hurricane, mobility, social vulnerability


COVID-19 and Hurricane Maria were both unprecedented disasters in Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria caused of billions of dollars in damage and took thousands of lives in 2017, while COVID-19 challenged Puerto Rico’s already crippled healthcare infrastructure in 2020. In the literature, there were few studies that explored how compound disasters affect island nations, let alone in a hypothetical worst-case scenario of a major hurricane during a novel (pre-vaccine) pandemic. In this dissertation, I studied how such a compound disaster would impact travel behaviors of migrants from Puerto Rico to the US in three distinct studies. The first study analyzed the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Puerto Rico-US migrants, finding that some socioeconomically disadvantaged populations were traveling more in the holiday months of 2020 than they were the year prior. The most surprising finding was that the elderly, although more at risk for COVID-19 complications and death, were traveling more during the pandemic than in the same months the year prior. The second study analyzed the impact of Hurricane Maria on destination decisions of Puerto Rico-US migrants, finding stronger preference for New York as opposed to the most common destination choices of Florida or Texas. The third study combined elements of the first two studies to determine how a hypothetical scenario of Hurricane Maria superimposed into 2020 during the pre-vaccine period of COVID-19 would affect destination decisions of migrants from Puerto Rico to the US. I found that destination state decisions would either become more widespread or narrow in this hypothetical scenario depending on the demographics of migrants, implying the need for integrated origin-destination and multi-sector approaches to disaster resilience. Overall, the dissertation provides insights on the identification of potential impacts of the hypothetical compounding disaster of Hurricane Maria happening during novel COVID-19 in Puerto Rico, ultimately leading to the safeguarding of vulnerable communities and the mitigation of the adverse consequences of these compounding hazards.

Included in

Geography Commons