Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Gendered Nature of Natural Disasters: The Impact of Catastrophic Events on the Gender Gap in Life Expectancy, 1981–2002

Neumayer and Plümper argue that natural disasters affect certain people more than others; they assert that gender affects mortality rates—girls and women are affected more heavily by natural disasters than are boys and men. It is important to note that these disparities in life expectancy are not the result of biological differences between men and women, rather, they are the result of systemic inequalities that greatly disadvantage women. Such disparities, according to Neumayer and Plümper, are a result of “unequal access to opportunities and unequal exposures to risks”, based on gender (2007). 

Though race, class, and other aspects of socio-economic status have an affect upon one’s vulnerability to natural disasters, this article focuses on gender specifically. Scholars of many different fields, including geographers, sociologists, and public health scholars, are researching not only the impacts of natural disasters and how to reduce these impacts, but also who is affected most by these disasters and why.

Technological advances in geography have greatly improved the ability of scientists to study these specific areas of research—“in linking spatial patterns of disaster risk to human-generated vulnerability, geography is uniquely positioned to study the impact of natural disasters on socioeconomic systems and groups of people” (Neumayer and Plümper 2007). The primary finding of these advances has been that the life expectancy of women is lowered more drastically by natural disasters and their impacts than it is for men; with this information efforts can be taken to minimize these socioeconomic disparities based on gender. In the mean time,"the special medical, economic, and security needs of women in the aftermath of disasters" must be acknowledged (Neumayer and Plümper 2007). 

Neumayer, E., & Plümper, T. (2007). The Gendered Nature of Natural Disasters: The Impact of Catastrophic Events on the Gender Gap in Life Expectancy, 1981–2002. Annals of the Association of American Geographers97(3), 551-566.


  1. This is a very interesting article. At first thought, one would think that women were more susceptible due to biological differences. I wouldn't have thought of using geographic means to study this, but I suppose it is just another example of how geographical information can be used to explore and interpret data in unique ways.

  2. I would be interested to know where the data was taken from geographically instead of the chart map. It would be interesting to see if this data was collected from genders and disasters around the country or what kinds of places. This missing information, to me, would be difficult to show using one map.

  3. It never occurred to me that it would be possible to map issues of gender bias, but this article makes it clear that it is possible. I would be curious to learn if the bias changes based on different types of natural disasters, for example are tornados more damaging to life expectancy than earthquakes, as opposed to just numbers about how natural disasters generally lower life expectancy for women.