Rygel et al. 2006: A method for constructing a social vulnerability Index

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Type of Document article (in journal)
Author L. Rygel, D. O’sullivan, B. Yarnal
Title A method for constructing a social vulnerability Index: an application to hurricane storm surges In a developed country
Year 2006
Journal Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change
Volume 11
Pages 741–776
DOI DOI: 10.1007/s11027-006-0265-6
Vulnerability System
Natural System Biophysical System
Groups Population in general
Vulnerability Driver
Hydrometeorological driver Cyclone/Hurricane/Typhoon
Scope of driver Explicit
Spatial scale of driver global
Temporal scale of driver Discrete Shock
Interaction between drivers No interaction
Reference Framework
Social scale of assessment Communities
Spatial unit Subcity
Geographical area Northern America
Research area Hampton Roads, Virginia, USA
Economic group of research area Developed countries
Temporal scale of assessment Point of time
Operational Approach
Research design Case study
Data collection method Secondary data / official statistics
Main source of data Secondary data
Data analysis method Multivariate statistics, Indexing
Dimensions captured by indicators Social, Economic
Indicator framework Social Vulnerability
Indicators poverty, gender, race and ethnicity, age, and disabilities
Participatory approach No
Theoretical Approach
Definition of vulnerability Explicit
Theoretical approach Integrated Approach
Theoretical framework Vulnerability of places
Description of theoretical framework This approach vulnerability of places framework by Wu et al. (2002) – treats vulnerability as both a biophysical risk and a social response within a specific geographic domain.
Scientific community Disaster Management and Disaster Risk Reduction


An important goal of vulnerability assessment is to create an index of overall vulnerability from a suite of indicators. Constructing a vulnerability index raises several problems in the aggregation of these indicators, including the decision of assigning weights to them. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate a method of aggregating vulnerability indicators that results in a composite index of vulnerability, but that avoids the problems associated with assigning weights. The investigators apply a technique based on Pareto ranking to a complex, developed socioeconomic landscape exposed to storm surges associated with hurricanes. Indicators of social vulnerability to this hazard are developed and a principal components analysis is performed on proxies for these indicators.Overall social vulnerability is calculated by applying Pareto ranking to these principal components. The paper concludes that it is possible to construct an effective index of vulnerability without weighting the individual vulnerability indicators.

Definition of vulnerability

Vulnerability can be defined as the capacity to bewounded or the “potential for loss (Kates 1985; Dow1992; Cutter,1996: page 743).

Additional content

They have used Pareto ranking method for indexing the social vulnerability, so needed not to weighting the indicators.

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