James R. Elliott: Damages Done: The Longitudinal Impacts of Natural Hazards on Wealth Inequality in the United States


Monday, October 22, 2018, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


Allison Dining Room

James R. Elliott, Professor of Sociology, Rice University

James R. ElliottDamages caused by natural hazards and recovery efforts launched in their aftermath are contributing to increased wealth inequality in the United States. Estimates indicate that during the past decade and a half the white-black wealth gap in Boston grew by $60,000 more than it would otherwise have grown if no hazard damages had occurred.

This talk will discuss how these findings emerge from longitudinal data collected from nearly 3,500 families across the U.S. from 1999 through 2013 as disaster damages of varying scale struck and FEMA assistance flowed into the counties where they lived.

The implication is that two major social challenges of our age – rising disaster costs and rising social inequality – are not just connected but dynamically and increasingly so.

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About the speaker

Sites Unseen: Uncovering Hidden Hazards in American CitiesJames Elliott received his Ph.D. in Sociology (with a minor in Geography) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1997, after which he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

His early research focused primarily on urban development and social inequality with emphasis on racial, ethnic and gender stratification. It examined how internal migration shapes and reshapes the urban system; how globalization contributes to structural underemployment; how neighborhood segregation shapes job networks and opportunities; how ethnic divisions of labor form and persist over time; and, how race and gender intersect to open and close access to workplace power in diverse urban labor markets.

More recent research incorporates growing emphasis on urban-environmental change in three related areas. One focuses on social inequalities revealed and exacerbated by natural hazards and local recoveries; another focuses on the historical accumulation and systemic spread of hazardous wastes in urban areas; and, the third focuses on links between urbanization and carbon emissions at and from the local level. These lines of research conceptualize urbanization as an ongoing interaction of social and environmental processes that feedback over time and space to shape prospects of a sustainable future.

His most recent book (co-authored by Scott Frickel) is Sites Unseen: Uncovering Hidden Hazards in American Cities, published by the Russell Sage Foundation in July 2018. 

Prof. Elliott has received funding from multiple federal agencies; served as an advisor to the National Science Foundation’s program in Sociology; and recently co-edited the journal Sociological Perspectives.

Learn more about James Elliott's work


See also: Fall 2018