Coastal Cities in the Southern US Floodplains: An Evaluation of Environmental Equity of Flood Hazards and Social Vulnerabilities

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Few empirical studies have examined environmental equity (EE) within the context of flooding in the United States (US). This paper explores whether lower-income, minority, and vulnerable communities in cities are disproportionately impacted by flooding, as evidenced by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) designated flood zones. Tampa and Houston, both coastal cities in the US, were investigated to understand flood risk and related equity issues using Geographical Information System (GIS) and statistical analyses. Both approaches allowed us to extract and integrate information from flood hazard maps with census block group-level sociodemographic data. Dasymetric mapping (i.e., binary mapping approach) was performed to calculate population density. Both correlations and logistic regression were used to examine the relationships between sociodemographic characteristics of population and flood risk associated with FEMA flood zones. Our research findings do not suggest any racial and ethnic disparities; however, a measurable inequity is observed in exposure to flood risk across age groups, education level, and income status. Since these vulnerable groups are often unrecognized in hazard-related policy discourses (i.e., preparedness, response, and recovery), the ramifications of these research findings may have significant impacts on EE research relating to flood hazards and related policy formulations.

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Applied Geography, v. 138, art. 102627