Monitoring Hurricane Maria’s impacts on the Puerto Rican population and economy

April 12, 2018

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] – Six months after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans are focused on recovering from Hurricanes Maria and Irma under the constraints imposed by a decade-long economic crisis. In an effort to address the ongoing impacts on the Puerto Rican population and economy, the PSTC hosted a one-day conference in March, convened by PSTC Faculty Associate and Associate Professor of Population Studies and Environment and Society (Research) Elizabeth Fussell and former Watson Institute Post-doctoral Fellow, Deepak Lamba-Nieves, Churchill G. Carey, Jr. Chair in Economic Development Research at the Center for a New Economy (CNE) in Puerto Rico.

Fussell proposed “an all-out effort to collect and disseminate population and economic data that is reliable and representative in order to make unbiased conclusions about Hurricane Maria’s impacts.” The assembled team combined expertise in Puerto Rico’s economy and population, survey research methods, and population health scientists who study disasters. 

“After a disaster like Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, there is a tremendous need for reliable, up-to-date information,” Fussell said. “Pre-disaster data provides some information on who and what was exposed, but real-time information on how the event affected people and places is typically partial and biased.”

The conversation that began at the meeting has continued in the form of multiple interdisciplinary research proposal writing teams that had not worked together previously. Fussell said, “We need empirical data on how people recover from disasters in order to better inform disaster recovery policies. Without interdisciplinary teams like this, we can’t learn what we need to know.”